Health Care

Obamacare driving up rates; forcing people out of health plans

“If you like your health care plan you will be able to keep your health care plan. Period.” That was one of the many promises made in 2009 by President Barack Obama to sell the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, to a skeptical nation.

Today, as the federal government works to roll out implementation of the health care law, we see that the president’s promises of 2009 could not be further from the realities of 2013.

icon_op_edLast month, my wife, Jaime, and I received notice that our health care plan would be discontinued Dec. 31. To comply with the myriad new regulations, requirements and mandates of the president’s health care law, my family must find a new health care plan.

When I was elected to Congress, I chose not to enroll in the Federal Employee Health Benefits program that is available to Members of Congress and their staffs. Instead, I purchased insurance from the private market because I wanted to be enrolled in the same health insurance network that all Coloradans have access to. It’s the same type of plan that many of my friends and neighbors in Yuma and across Colorado have.

When I heard my family’s plan was going to be discontinued, I felt blindsided. And I am not alone.

Millions of people are seeing changes to their health care coverage as insurers scramble to come into compliance with the health care law’s thousands of pages of regulations. And these regulations aren’t just forcing changes to health care coverage; they’re driving premiums up at an alarming rate.

Recent analysis has shown that average premiums in Colorado for the individual market will increase between 23 and 25 percent. Moreover, premiums are expected to increase by 17 percent in the small group market. After my current plan is discontinued, the closest comparable plan through our current provider will cost over 100 percent more, going from roughly $650 a month to $1,480 per month.

The president, congressional Democrats led by then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and their celebrity allies went out on television, radio and the Internet to insist that the law would lower premiums for average Americans. But for families across Colorado and the United States opening letters from their insurers or employers this week, the shiny veneer of the new law has given way to the ugly realities of higher premiums, reduced work hours and forced changes to coverage.

Choosing a health care plan is a difficult and time-consuming process. Families like my own try to find coverage that works for them, taking into consideration access to family doctors, affordability and other factors that best fit their family. Those who have been happy with their current health care plans are now being forced to find new plans and must navigate the maze of new regulations in doing so.

With the health care exchanges set to go live less than a month from now, many people will enroll and be given new health care coverage options. The issue that no one is talking about is what happens once they enroll in new coverage. The number of primary care providers in Colorado is dangerously low, and the health care law does nothing to incentivize the addition of new providers to our state. Scores of people across the state will have access to insurance – but they may soon find the real problem is accessing a doctor.

As a parent of two children, I want to have the peace of mind that when my children get sick, I am able to take them to our local doctor and make sure they get the treatment they need. The letter I received about my plan being dropped creates a genuine uncertainty about how my health care is going to be administered. Like millions of other Americans, my wife and I are now working to understand what our health care coverage will look like in 2014 and beyond.

The letter I received last month has only served to renew my resolve to repeal this law. We need to ensure that people have better access to care with lower costs. The president’s health care law expands coverage, but families, small businesses, and young people are already seeing the skyrocketing costs.

Despite delays, exemptions and missed deadlines, the implementation of the health care law is rolling forward. My resolve to stand up for the people of Colorado and fight this law has never been stronger.

Cory Gardner represents Colorado’s 4th congressional district in Congress.  This op-ed first appeared in the Colorado Springs Gazette


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