If the current state of the health insurance market weren't so tragic, former President Barack Obama's many promises and statements about Obamacare would be laughable.
Obamacare could end up being remembered as one of the greatest policy failures in modern history. Premiums and deductibles have skyrocketed, millions of people have lost their insurance and been forced to purchase a new plan (and sometimes get new healthcare providers as a result), and the policy's greatest "achievement," if you can even call it that, is getting tens of millions of people dependent on government via Medicaid.
But perhaps most incredible of all is the tremendous collapse of the individual health insurance marketplace. In September 2009, when Obama was championing his proposed health insurance overhaul to Congress, he lamented the lack of "choice and competition" in the health insurance market.
"My guiding principle is, and always has been, that consumers do better when there is choice and competition," Obama said. "That's how the market works. Unfortunately, in 34 states, 75 percent of the insurance market is controlled by five or fewer companies. In Alabama, almost 90 percent is controlled by just one company. And without competition, the price of insurance goes up and quality goes down."
Nearly eight years later, there's less competition and choice than at any time in recent history. In June, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released a report estimating as many as 1,300 counties, about 40 percent of all counties, would have only one health insurance provider available in their state Obamacare exchange in 2018, leaving people with, quite literally, no options.
This is a remarkable shift from just a few years ago. In 2015, the Heritage Foundation reported there were only 175 counties, about 6 percent of all counties, with one health insurer. Another 853 counties had at least two insurers.
Since June, the situation has grown even more dire. CMS' latest projections now show the number of counties expected to have only one health insurance carrier in the Obamacare exchange in 2018 is 1,478, an astounding 47 percent of all counties. Compared to 2015, that's a 683 percent increase in the number of counties with only one insurer.
The counties aren't relegated to several large isolated regions, either. All of Alabama, Alaska, Delaware, Iowa, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Wyoming are projected to have only one insurer serving the entire state. In several other states, including Arizona, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, and Tennessee, the vast majority of the counties will be in the same boat.
In just two months, the situation has gone from terrible to nearly unrecoverable, and at this pace, it's likely within the year (maybe before 2017 is over) we'll have a country in which more than half the counties only offer people one insurance option.
While the reasons for this collapse are many, the fundamental problem is simply that the federal government, which can't even manage to run the Post Office without incurring massive losses, is utterly incapable of managing and regulating systems as complex as the health insurance and healthcare industries. This can no longer be considered a partisan political theory.
As the data clearly show, the federal government has failed miserably to provide the system Obama promised it would, and we're all suffering for it.
Justin Haskins (@JustinTHaskins) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is an executive editor at The Heartland Institute.
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