Obamacare Hurts Alaska Most

Op-Ed

Date: Dec. 13, 2015
Location: Washington, D.C.

By Sen. Dan Sullivan

Recently, while home in Anchorage, in the course of two hours, three people in three different places -- a gas station, Carr's and Lowe's -- talked to me about how Obamacare is wiping them out. Hardly a day passes when I don't hear from or read about Alaskans harmed by Obamacare.

One Alaska family tells me they now pay $1,200 per month in premiums with a $10,000 deductible. Another couple pays more than $3,000 per month in premiums, almost $38,000 per year. Here's an excerpt from a constituent letter: "The renewal paperwork that I just received estimated our new payment to be just over $1,000/month -- doubling our monthly expense ... What is a young family to do?"

Another: "Insurance rates are killing my small business ... We have tried to keep our employees and their families covered but don't see how we can continue to."

"Please, please help us!!" an Alaskan wrote to me.

Workers and families are suffering. Small businesses are being squeezed. Job creation is stymied. Nearly every promise made by the president and those who voted for the Affordable Care Act has been broken.

"If you like your health care plan, you can keep it," the president told us. "If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor," he said. The law, he promised, "means more choice, more competition, lower costs for millions of Americans." He also promised family premiums would be reduced on average by $2,500 per year.

Instead, costs are soaring. A bronze plan, the least expensive available, averages $420 per month, with a deductible of $5,653 for an individual and $11,600 for a family.

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised Obamacare would create "4 million jobs -- 400,000 jobs almost immediately." But the Congressional Budget Office projects Obamacare will result in 2 million fewer full-time jobs by 2017, and 2.5 million fewer by 2024.

No state has been hurt more than Alaska. Five insurance companies originally offered individual coverage in the exchange. Today, only two are left. Both are increasing premiums by about 40 percent in 2015. In Anchorage, the lowest level bronze plan will rise 46 percent in just one year, making it among the most expensive in the country. Under the plan, a non-smoking 40-year-old not receiving subsidies will pay $579 a month with a $5,750 deductible, or $678 a month with a $5,250 deductible.

Despite these crushing costs, Obamacare requires Alaskans to purchase these plans -- the first time in U.S. history Congress mandated individual Americans to buy something.

Many in Alaska and across the country have chosen to go without coverage, instead paying the expensive yearly fine. Americans are rightfully asking: What's the point of having health insurance that's being forced on us if we can't afford it?

Others just forego seeing their doctors. A recent Gallup poll found that in 2014, one in three Americans put off needed medical treatment because of cost. As costs rise, so will that number.

For Alaskans, the problems only get worse. The "Cadillac Tax," which taxes premiums, takes effect in 2018, and will impact an estimated 90 percent of Alaska businesses. A company with 20 covered employees will be required to pay another $28,000 per year in taxes.

These extra costs on small businesses will be handed down to their employees in the form of reduced benefits and wages. State and local governments will pay increased taxes. And hard-working Alaskans covered by union plans will also pay more under the Cadillac Tax.

One of my campaign promises was to vote to repeal Obamacare, which I did on Thursday. The president has vowed to veto it, claiming the Affordable Care Act is working.

United Health, one of the nation's biggest insurance companies, says that because of losses, it may pull out of Obamacare altogether. Premera, one of the two health insurers left in Alaska, says it can't continue to sustain losses.

For the sake of millions of Americans who have been misled, we can't afford to wait for Obamacare to self-destruct. Providing affordable health care for all Americans is a very important goal, but Obamacare isn't even succeeding at that. It's estimated that 33 million Americans in 2014 still didn't have coverage. According to the Congressional Budget Office, in 10 years 27 million Americans will still be without insurance.

Moreover, a health care program that is economically wiping out middle class families and small businesses is simply not sustainable. It's imperative that we repeal this law and replace it with one that includes tort reform, enables interstate competition, allows small business the same healthcare tax deductions as big business, is transparent so people know what they are buying and ensures people with pre-existing conditions get covered.

There are a number of bills that have been introduced that would enact these solutions.

When selling the law to the public, President Obama invoked "The fierce urgency of now."

That's exactly what I hear when Alaskans write: "What is a young family to do? Please, please help us!!"


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