Nonetheless, the point remains that healthcare premiums have been consistently growing every year — even before the ACA and long before Obama ran for president.5 The ACA was, in part, designed to address that specific issue — namely, the exponential rise in healthcare costs as a proportion of our GDP.
Unfortunately, while the rate of insurance-premium increase under the ACA has slowed, it has not stopped.
The increase just happened to reach an unacceptable threshold percentage of American household income just as the ACA was implemented.
Rather than focus on policies aimed at controlling the rising costs of health care, Congress appears to be fixated on a politically-driven repeal of the ACA, with no interest in a viable and reasonable replacement. Thus far, proposals have been poorly thought out and obviously rushed.
To make matters worse, there is an unwillingness to work across the aisle. While that also may be said of Democrats, they are not the ones proposing to reverse the law to pre-ACA policies, but rather are willing to work toward improvements that are more in line with our nation’s future needs.
To better understand how the uninsured financially affect all of us, consider the large safety-net hospital where I completed my post-graduate training.
Before ACA, local hospitals channeled their uninsured patients to our center. More than 66% of the patients were uninsured, and they all were very sick because they invariably waited until need was dire before seeking care. Uninsured patients got admitted, got treated for acute exacerbation of a chronic illness, and then were discharged with prescriptions — which they often did not fill because they could not afford them.
The hospital had programs to help them, but that just wasn’t enough. The result? Many came back. Over 3 years, the tax-supported hospital had racked up $400 million in debt. That debt belonged to the state taxpayers. Who footed the bill? Taxpayers.
Instead of paying the relatively low cost of the medications required to prevent acute illness and keep patients out of the hospital, taxpayers were paying for the most expensive aspect of care — acute hospital admissions.
For example, consider heart failure, which costs Americans over $40 billion a year. The medications that can treat heart failure and help keep patients out of the hospital cost about $20-$40 per month. Compare that to the cost of a single hospital admission for heart failure: about $13,000 on average.6 And patients with heart failure who do not have access to medications get admitted more than once per year.