"Girly … tough ain't enough," was Clint Eastwood's warning to his boxing protégé in "Million Dollar Baby." This should have been the warning the drafters of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ("ACA" or "Obamacare") gave to women before they signed up by the millions on its exchanges.
Health care is tougher and more expensive for women than men, with childbirth and its related care being the most obvious example. Historically, insurance companies had this in mind when underwriting a woman as a higher cost risk compared to a man of similar overall health. Obamacare promised to fix this: To make it a fair fight between the genders for affordable and high-quality health plans. Like almost all of its promises, let's chalk this one up as broken and undelivered. This sad reality leaving female customers on the health care ropes.
Post the ACA, insurance is now gender neutral, meaning you can't charge a woman more than you would charge a man for the same coverage. Like most of Obamacare's supposed well-intentioned changes, this has played out differently than planned. Because the ACA does not allow insurers to charge women more than men, many men saw their premiums go up after Obamacare went into effect. Their response? Millions opted to not get coverage at all.
Any reasonable diligence pre-passage of the ACA would have uncovered this. Historically, men are much less likely to be insured. Men make up 58 percent of the uninsured population, a number that has dramatically increased in the past years.
With an anticipated national premium rise of 25 percent as 2017's doors to enrollment open on the Obamacare exchanges next week, more and more men will likely opt out and take their chances with the uninsured penalty. Minnesota and Tennessee anticipate over 50 percent increases, giving a whole new meaning to swing states this year. As the guys drop, the ladies will be left to face the sharp jabs of exploding premiums and deductibles, making their insurance essentially worthless.
Michelle Katz, a nurse and nationally recognized patient advocate seen on "World News Tonight" and "The Doctors," knows the impact already experienced by many women in the work place. "To save money, I've seen many hospitals downsize their nursing staff as well as hire more per diem nursing staff since the ACA went into effect. In turn, many working women have no choice but to opt for what is available on the exchanges, which with the increasing premiums and deductibles poses a significant challenge especially for a nurse making $17 - $25 per hour."
There is still more salt to pour into the gender disparity wound. This pain is courtesy of Obamacare's Medicaid expansion. Over the last few years, in 31 states, Medicaid has welcomed in a new group of health care recipients fully covered by American taxpayers. Like the Etch A Sketch of all other ObamaCare cost estimates, increased Medicaid enrollment has resulted in enrollee spending up 50 percent higher than expected. Who is being covered to drive these costs? The answer in large part: "The Idle Army" of roughly seven million able-bodied men, aged 25 to 54, unemployed with no plans to enter the work force. The birth of a brand new interest group, Medicaid's "Deadbeat Dudes".
Thanks to Obamacare, instead of protecting our nation's women, especially the moms giving birth to our hopefully greatest generation yet, we are now subsidizing this crew of able bodied, unemployed, and often opioid addicted guys.
Nurse Katz has witnessed this growing epidemic up-close. "Unfortunately, I have found that some seem to be gaming the system. I overheard one man bragging about the state picking up the tab for a cocktail of drugs he was on to address his conditions. He was barely middle age, otherwise seemed healthy and never made any reference to having a job, never mind looking for a job."
For solutions, it looks like the "fix" is in. In the opposing corner lies President Obama, Secretary Clinton, and their calls for a "public option." Assuming ObamaCare's gender trending plays out, adding another government insurance option to our current tax subsidized entitlements will mean more of the same. And by more of the same, I mean a continued difficulty finding doctors who are willing to accept coverage with lower reimbursement rates while managing a costlier patient population. Add this extra stress on the already way out of whack ratio of providers to patients and many women will share a similar poor experience with our veterans: another very deserving but underserviced group.
So what are Obamacare's millions of women to do? Maybe listen to Hillary. Not the candidate. Rather, the boxer portrayed by Hillary Swank. "Always protect (yourself)." Only this time it's from guys swinging for "free healthcare" and politicians' missed promises that pertain to your health.
Bryan Rotella is the CEO of Rotella Legal Group (RLG) serving as general counsel and health care policy advisor to businesses, provider groups and political campaigns nationwide. Thinking of submitting an op-ed to the Washington Examiner? Be sure to read our guidelines on submissions.