It’s been more than 13 years since the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known to most Americans as Obamacare, was signed into law by then-President Barack Obama.
It was marketed as a panacea for the American health care system. Proponents promised lower costs, better coverage and, of course, the opportunity — later labeled 2013’s “Lie of the Year” by left-leaning Politifact — to keep your current health plan if you liked it.
The reality has turned out a little different, as a new survey by the Commonwealth Fund foundation has demonstrated.
The foundation engaged research company SSRS (formerly Social Science Research Solutions) to interview 7,873 Americans who were at least 19 years old, asking questions about health care, prescription drugs, insurance coverage, and so forth.
(It should be noted that the reported results “focuses on” only 6,121 of those adults and implies that it largely ignored respondents age 65 or older, apparently in an attempt to represent “working age” Americans rather than the population as a whole.)
The results: Health care is still so unaffordable in the Affordable Care Act era that many Americans have actually gotten sicker because they put off getting needed care that they knew would be expensive and perhaps even leave them in debt.
The survey highlighted five specific findings under the headline “Paying for It: How Health Care Costs and Medical Debt Are Making Americans Sicker and Poorer.”
Roughly half of those surveyed said that their health care plans were either “somewhat” or “very” difficult to pay for.
Those with employer-provided (and therefore, often subsidized) plans were less likely to complain about its cost, at about 43 percent. Medicaid and Medicare participants also were less likely to be concerned about costs, at 45 and 51 percent, respectively.
But a whopping 57 percent of those with individual plans, including those who purchased health care through Obamacare’s marketplace, said that paying for their coverage was a challenge.
Smaller, but still surprising, numbers said they had put off (or skipped entirely) either care visits or needed prescriptions due to cost. Again, those with employer coverage were least affected by this concern, but 29 percent of them said this was an issue, as did 39 percent of Medicaid and 42 percent of Medicare enrollees.
Nearly four in 10 individual coverage buyers said they’d put off care because of cost — 37 percent.
Of those who put off health care in this manner, more than half said it had made them sicker. This was true of 54 percent of those with employer plans, 60 percent with Medicaid, 63 percent with Medicare, and a whopping 61 percent of those who purchased health care themselves.
Roughly a third of the survey’s respondents said they’d incurred medical debt despite having coverage. While this was true for only 21 percent of Medicaid participants, fully a third of both Medicare and individual plan enrollees had the same issue, as did three in 10 of those with coverage through their workplace.
Finally, the survey said, the high cost – debt – delayed care process is a vicious circle, with each step in the process exacerbating the problem.
About a third of those with medical debt said that it pushed them to delay getting needed care, including prescriptions, including 34 percent of those with employer plans, 31 percent of those with Medicaid, 32 percent with Medicare, and 39 percent with individual plans.
The Commonwealth Fund included a number of recommendations to address these issues, almost all of which included additional significant government intervention in the free market.
SSRS said the survey had a sampling error of only +/- 1.7 percent with a 95 percent confidence level for the results related to working-age Americans.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.