Cleaning up Obamacare mess is top priority

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 2, 2016

By Rep. Bradley Byrne

In 2008, then Sen. Barack Obama famously said, “In an Obama Administration, we will lower premiums by up to $2,500 for a typical family per year.”

You don’t have to be a health insurance expert to know that that was a lie. All around the First District of Alabama, I talk to folks who are hurting because of the burdensome cost of health insurance under Obamacare.

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Perhaps Bill Clinton put it best, “You’ve got this crazy system…people are out there busting it, sometimes 60 hours a week, wind up with their premiums doubled and their coverage cut in half. It’s the craziest thing in the world.”

Unfortunately, things are only getting worse. This week, 2017 premium rates were released for the Obamacare exchanges. Across the country, enrollees will see a shocking average premium increase of 25.6 percent. But, this is only the average of all exchanges. For Alabamians, rates will increase a whopping average of 58 percent.

The Obama Administration was quick to say this will not affect most people on the exchanges because, under Obamacare, as premiums increase, so does the share of the premium the government picks up. It is as if these folks do not realize where the government gets the money to pay for these premiums – from the taxpayers.

In 2016, taxpayers subsidized the exchanges to the tune of $42 billion. Already, these subsidies were expected to jump to $106 billion by 2026 and a 25 percent increase in premiums is likely to add at least $8 billion to the taxpayer’s bill for just 2017.

More importantly, the Obama Administration doesn’t account for the millions of people who receive no subsidy because their family income is 400 percent above the federal poverty line. With that in mind, I decided to log into the Alabama exchange to see what I could find.

I selected a family of four with parents in their mid-30s, two young children, that do not smoke. Without a subsidy, the cheapest plan on the exchange for Mobile County carried a premium of $982.45 a month with a deductible of $12,900 a year. So, under Obamacare, two middle class parents would have to pay $24,689.40 a year just to be able to use their health insurance.

Of course, Obamacare’s problems aren’t just being felt by those using the exchange. Traveling around the district, I hear from employers and employees alike that healthcare costs are skyrocketing.

Most of us remember when not too long ago you could go to the doctor or pick up a prescription on your company’s sponsored insurance and pay only a small copayment.

Today, Obamacare’s mandates and red tape prevent employers and insurance companies from offering the type of plans that we were accustomed to just a few years ago. For those lucky enough to have employer-sponsored insurance, there is often a huge deductible to be paid.

Of course, Republicans were sounding the alarm about these costs before Obamacare was passed. Unfortunately, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid chose to ram the bill through Congress without Republican support.

Since my first day in Congress, I have said that Obamacare is a complete disaster. These premium hikes only prove what Republicans have been saying for years, the entire bill must be repealed and replaced.

As your Congressman, cleaning up the mess known as Obamacare will remain one of my top priorities for the next Congress.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne represents the 1st Congressional District of Alabama, which includes Escambia County.