Why so many people hate Obamacare
NEW YORK — Just saying the word Obamacare prompts many Americans to roll their eyes, mutter curses or launch into a tirade.
President Obama signed the polarizing health care reform law nearly seven years ago. Designed to make health insurance more affordable and universal, Obamacare has attracted both enthusiastic supporters who say it saved their lives and saved them money and passionate opponents who decry the hefty premiums and the mandate that requires nearly all Americans get health insurance.
Some 40% of Americans had an unfavorable view of the law in April 2010, while 46% had a favorable opinion, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll. Since then, the public’s perception has generally been more dour. In November, 45% of people had a negative view, versus 43% with a positive one.
President-elect Donald Trump’s promise to swiftly repeal Obamacare helped him win the election. At a swanky New Year’s Eve bash at his Mar-a-Lago Club, he drew raucous, extended applause from the black-tie crowd when he repeated the vow.
Asked recently for their opinion of Obamacare, dozens of CNMoney readers responded with a litany of complaints. The sweeping health care overhaul has offended people in multiple ways.
Some people hate Obamacare philosophically. They rail against the law because they don’t think the government should force people to buy health insurance and penalize them if they don’t.
Also, they view Medicaid expansion and subsidies for low- and moderate-income enrollees as yet another entitlement program that uses hard-working taxpayers’ money to help lazy, undeserving people.
“It’s a welfare program disguised as a health care program,” said Charles Kraut, 67, a financial adviser who believes the smaller government is, the better. “Please show me where in the Constitution it says that the government should “promote the general welfare” by stealing from half the population to give to the other half.”
The Lexington, Virginia, resident and his wife have health insurance through her job. But he says he resents having his tax dollars go for sex-change operations and abortions on demand.
Others say there’s nothing affordable about the Affordable Care Act. They blast the program for having high premiums and deductibles that get worse every year. They are also angry that they couldn’t keep the insurance plan or doctors that they had.
The outcry over having to switch policies grew so intense in the fall of 2013 — when millions of Americans received cancellation letters from their insurers — that Obama had to issue a rare presidential apology. Politifact named Obama’s claim that “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it” the Lie of the Year for 2013, further tarnishing the perception of the law.
Mike Dingledine of Coldwater, Ohio, feels misled by Obama’s promises about the Affordable Care Act. While he is on Medicare, his 63-year-old wife bought an individual policy from Anthem — the only carrier offering plans on the exchange in their area. Even after her subsidy, she still pays $340 a month for a policy with a $7,100 deductible.
“That’s kind of a joke in itself,” Dingledine said of his wife’s policy, “because insurance doesn’t pay for anything until you pay enough to reach the high deductibles they have. And, oh yeah, pay the monthly premiums on top of that.”
Obamacare’s high premiums and deductibles have led many — particularly middle class Americans who aren’t eligible for subsidies — to question how “affordable” the Affordable Care Act is. However, more than eight in 10 enrollees are shielded from the recent spikes because they receive federal subsidies that lowers their cost of coverage to less than 10% of their income, depending on the plan they select.
Also, the Obama administration has been working with insurers to keep further rate increases in check.
And for still others, the opposition is political. They don’t like that Obama used his party’s control of both chambers of Congress at the time to make sweeping healthcare reforms — a goal that had eluded his Democratic predecessors. That sparked one of the most acrimonious political fights in Washington seen in modern history. After more than a year of bitter partisan debate, the House passed the bill without any Republican support.
Then-GOP House Minority Leader John Boehner gave voice to many Americans’ hostility to the law when he lamented at the time: “Look at how this bill was written. Can you say it was done openly? With transparency and accountability? Without backroom deals that were struck behind closed doors? … Hell no, you can’t!”
Republicans, who won back control of Congress in subsequent elections, continued to savage the law. Obamacare was slammed by Republicans running for office. It faced an onslaught of repeal bills in the House and of legal challenges in the courts.
The GOP’s pillorying of Obama’s signature law has intensified since the election as Trump and Congress prepare to dismantle the program.
“Obamacare is a story of broken promise after broken promise after broken promise, followed by failing programs, higher premiums, higher deductibles,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said Wednesday.
CNN’s MJ Lee contributed to this story.