Issues & Insights

$586 Billion Later, Health Care Is Worse Than Before Obamacare — Thanks Obama

I & I Editorial

‘I am not the first President to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last.” 

That was how then-President Barack Obama pitched Obamacare to a joint session of Congress on Sept. 9, 2009. He described a health care system in crisis and promised that his reforms would “provide more security and stability to those who have health insurance.  It will provide insurance for those who don’t.  And it will slow the growth of health care costs for our families, our businesses, and our government.”

Nearly a decade after having his vision realized, how have his promises worked out? 

Based on polling data, Obamacare has been a miserable failure, and Obama will be far from the last president to grapple with this issue.

The most recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds that health care is at the top of the nation’s priority list, with 24 percent of respondents listing it as their top priority for the federal government. Next on the list is immigration, at 18 percent, and after that, economic growth at 14 percent. 

The poll also found that 42 percent list health care as either their first or second choice on the priority list.

Back in June 2008, when Obama was running for president, only 8 percent rated health care as a top priority, just 20 percent as their first or second priority. Of course, the economy was in a recession and the country at war with Iraq, both of which weighed heavily on the public’s mind at the time.

But even in earlier years when the economy was doing well, health care ranked far lower on the list of priorities than it does today. In June 2006, only 14 percent ranked it as No. 1 on their list. A year later, 15 percent said it was their top priority.

An ongoing Gallup survey finds that the public was actually more satisfied with their own coverage and quality of health care in 2007 than they were in 2018. Other surveys find cost remains a major complaint.

And just how much did taxpayers spend for these dismal results? Since Obamacare went into effect in 2014, it has cost taxpayers $586 billion in additional Medicaid spending and insurance subsidies. The government also spent billions building the Obamacare exchanges, and billions more on a failed government-subsidized health insurance co-op experiment. In addition, Obamacare added some $270 billion in additional overhead costs to comply with its 10,000 pages of regulations. 

Over the next decade, Obamacare’s subsidies will cost $1.6 trillion, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

That’s a tremendous amount of money for health care reforms that have succeeded only in making the country more anxious about health care than they were before.

Of course, Obamacare failed to achieved most of Obama’s other promises. 

It has done nothing to slow, much less reverse, the rising cost of health care. In fact, Obamacare itself caused premiums in the individual market to more than double in its first four years. For millions of those who aren’t eligible for Obamacare subsidies, health care has been priced out of reach. Obamacare plans carry not only high premiums but also huge deductibles, and most are heavily restricted HMO plans with extremely limited provider networks.

National health spending, which was 16.3 percent of GDP in 2008, is now 17.9 percent and is slated to hit 19.4 percent by 2027. Per-capita spending on healthcare jumped from $7,898 to $10,739 over those years.

Far from driving the deficit down, Obamacare is pushing federal red ink up. The Congressional Budget Office has calculated that repealing Obamacare would cut the deficit by some $473 billion in the first 10 years

Naturally, because of these failures, the Democrats’ answer is to dump even more taxpayer money into government-run health care programs, with most now favoring a $32 trillion plan developed by socialist Bernie Sanders to have the government nationalize the entire health insurance industry.

Only in government, and only among fans of big government, are massive failures like Obamacare rewarded with still more government. 

— Written by John Merline

Issues & Insights is a new site formed by the seasoned journalists behind the legendary IBD Editorials page. We’re just getting started, and we’ll be adding new features as time permits. We’re doing this on a voluntary basis because we believe the nation needs the kind of cogent, rational, data-driven, fact-based commentary that we can provide. 

Be sure to tell all your friends! And if you’d like to make a contribution to support our effort, feel free to click the Tip Jar over on the right.

We Could Use Your Help

Issues & Insights was founded by seasoned journalists of the IBD Editorials page. Our mission is to provide timely, fact-based reporting and deeply informed analysis on the news of the day -- without fear or favor.

We’re doing this on a voluntary basis because we believe in a free press, and because we aren't afraid to tell the truth, even if it means being targeted by the left. Revenue from ads on the site help, but your support will truly make a difference in keeping our mission going. If you like what you see, feel free to visit our Donations Page by clicking here. And be sure to tell your friends!

You can also subscribe to I&I: It's free!

Just enter your email address below to get started.


I & I Editorial Board

The Issues and Insights Editorial Board has decades of experience in journalism, commentary and public policy.


  • Obamacare is not the failure. The repeated attempts by Republicans and then Trump to sabotage and undermine Obamacare is the cause of premium hikes and social anxiety over healthcare.

    But even if we were to play devil’s advocate and say Obamacare is a terrible idea, where has a genuine Republican plan been? 11 years of haranguing against Obama and over 20 years since Clinton first attempted healthcare reform, Republicans still can’t come up with an alternative they can pass. Why? Because Obamacare was a Republican idea, born out of opposition to Clinton’s reform efforts! It’s something that could actually work if supported and funded well. But rather than act for the good of the country, conservatives try to sabotage something something they came up with for simple political gain.

    • Obama called the Employer’s Mandate the ‘Keystone of the ACA’.
      However Obama delayed its implimentation prior to every Federal election (every 2 years) starting in 2010 through the last election held during Obama’s two terms.
      The ACA has yet to impliment the Employer’s Mandate.

      Investor’s Business Daily
      Oct 9, 2015
      “Obama Just Signed His 10th Bill Repealing Parts Of ObamaCare
      What is true is that Obama himself has signed multiple bills into law that have repealed ObamaCare bit by bit.”

      The Hill
      Nov 25, 2014
      “Schumer: Dems erred with ObamaCare
      Democrats made a strategic mistake by passing the Affordable Care Act, Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.)”

      • The entire “Trump sabotaged” Obamacare is a convenient myth. Obamacare’s failures — political and otherwise — manifested themselves almost immediately. Which is why Obama had to repeal portions of it, and put off others. And, irony of ironies, this year, after Trump supposedly sabotaged Obamacare, premiums actually declined for the first time ever.

    • Obamacare is a failed program, was a failed program, and will forever be a failed program because it addressed nothing other than the left’s desire to control healthcare. As for the right’s failure to produce an alternative, that’s a leftist’s point of view. I’d prefer the government staying out of healthcare and let the market take care of business.

    • Please stop making excuses for Obamacare. I agree the GOP failed to come up with a plan, but Obamacare was forced upon the American people by the Democratic party, and it’s time they take the majority of the responsibility for it’s failure.

    • Really? At what time was Obamacare ever successful? At what point were we allowed “to keep our plan” or “keep our doctor?”

      Democrats mismanaged health care, opened the borders and stifled the economy. What do the partisan diehards think will change? More socialism? More abortions/infanticide? More anti-Semitism? Certainly the offer nothing else.

    • Here in the South, we have a saying, it’s “Bless your peapicking heart.” … It is sarcastic because basically someone has revealed the pathetic ignorance in their head in a statement that triggers it.. More insurance is not the answer, lower costs is the solution. Our healthcare was never-ever meant to be a state solution. Nor was your care to be financed as an industrial unit. The Founding Fathers had insurance but for a single occupation that was so deadly, it left a majority of the workers killed, crippled, or without faculties. Sailors were required to have insurance and deductions for pensions and an old folks home. I do not know where you got the idea that Obamacare was a Republican venture except that in all things Washington,Think Tanks seek solutions to unsolvable problems…and the Democrats being stupid and dishonest as usual stole something that Smarter People planted and then laughed at as they departed, and then waited for it…

    • Misinformed individuals such as yourself should learn the facts before pushing the old tired lefty talking points.
      Please name one country where ‘universal health care’ is working.

      • I have a friend of mine who lives and works in the Netherlands. She works a full-time job as a nurse and then crosses the border on weekends to work in an old age home in Germany. She enjoys free healthcare – no out of pocket for everything from an ingrown toenail and major heart surgery. And the taxes she pays to both countries to fund her free healthcare are so onerous that despite two paychecks (or at least what is left of each paycheck) she can no longer afford the vacations overseas that she used to take. So she now does her eight week state-guaranteed staycation each year by visiting the local malls. Enjoy paying for all of the free stuff that the government will give you.

  • “Obamacare has been a miserable failure”

    Replied Obama, “That was the plan. It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.”

    • Agree with Zombietimeshare. ACA was designed to strain the current system to the point that Universal Health Care could come to the rescue. It was intended to be a stepping stone along the path to the ultimate goal.

  • Obamacare did exactly what it was designed to do…screw up the private market and move the ball towards single payer. Things aren’t screwed up because President 0 failed, things are screwed up because he succeeded.

  • Don’t you get it? It was meant to fail – so “single payer” (socialized medicine) could be implemented.

  • Let’s see – if you add millions of people to the insurance plans by forcibly taking money from one group and giving it to another – what could go wrong? Then add those millions with the same number of physicians and facilities – what could go wrong? Then reduce coverages for all, increase deductibles, both lifetime and annual – what could go wrong? Make young folks buy insurance against their will when they don’t want it or need it, hide taxes to the bill such as the home sale profit tax because your allies in the house and senate won’t read it (think Pelosi/Schumer), add end of life counseling for those who have outlived their societal usefulness, make 50 year old men buy maternity care without a choice, force those with a conscience to have their taxpayer dollars used to pay for abortions, give billion dollar contracts to your wife’s friend to set up the exchange, NOT allow people to keep their plans, etc., etc., etc. – what could possibly go wrong? Worst – president – ever!

  • Despite boasts from Obama and his administration, Obamacare was never about reducing medical care spending. It was about increasing government control over the medical insurance system by taxing Americans to subsidize premiums for the poor and near-poor.

    So the first flaw in Obamacare is that it is in fact an elaborate insurance scheme that simply does not address medical care spending. In fact, by subsidizing it with no meaningful controls, it stimulates more spending, not less (economic law of demand).

    Obamacare was doomed to fail no matter who opposed it, no matter how. It was doomed to fail even if no one opposed it. Because it is an insurance mechanism bolted on to a medical cost problem. It’s an example of failure to diagnose the problem, then prescribing the wrong medicine. The undiagnosed and untreated condition just gets worse.

    Even this article is not careful to distinguish among health, health care, medical care, and medical insurance. Specifically, the term “health care” is typically used carelessly – as in this article. The I&I writer needs no be embarrassed – almost all our national political and academic leaders are equally careless if not more so. Health care is virtually free, or so nearly free that no one need worry about its cost. It’s medical care that is expensive. It’s the cost of medical care that is the primary obstacle to obtaining it, and is the primary reason medical insurance is so costly.

    Obama himself confused things in his Sep 20, 2009 speech before the joint session of Congress: “Put simply, our health care problem is our deficit problem. Nothing else even comes close.” What did he mean by health care? It’s become clear he did not mean medical care. Because his administration embarked on creating a vast insurance scheme that only made things worse aided by, as Jonathan Gruber famously revealed, “the ignorance of the American people”.

    How much longer will Americans permit our leadership to continue down this dead-end path?

  • Ah, Obamacare. The programme that was intended to make health insurance affordable for all, but raised my premiums so high with coverage so low that I haven’t had insurance for years.

  • If I recall, the problems Obama was trying to solve (if he was) were twofold: the uninsured, and rising costs, especially of prescription drugs. Either of these problems could have been addressed via less sweeping initiatives than the ACA. And neither one actually was.

  • Exactly what it was before it got mucked up by Obama and company. Each person is responsible for their own insurance. The government would help with Medicaid for those in need.

    You need want property/house/rental insurance you purchase it. You want drivers/automotive insurance you purchase it. You want health insurance you purchase it.

    If you want to help lower insurance costs then get involved with Pharma costs, liability suites, etc. There are plenty of things that can be done to reduce present costs. It’s ridiculous to allow Pharma to sell the same drug 5 to 10 times cheaper to other countries then our own. Why should we subsidize other countries?

    The US and many charities contribute greatly to scientific research which leads to drug research and design. The Pharma market takes high advantage of this and this type of thing can greatly be cut down on. These are just some of the way the Gov can get involved. FDA is another way that could be more streamlined to reduce costs.

    Laws could easily be passed that would curb many if not most costs. Take for example having to have quotes upfront on costs of procedures before they are performed along with competing costs. It’s rediculous the way a simple xray can be charged $700 while if you went down the stream to the “lab” could get it for $80. $18 for an aspirin, etc.

    There are tons of things that could be done to decrease costs by nearly half if not more regardless of how it’s being paid for (private insurance, cash, medicaid for all). If congress was to ignore the lobby industry they could easily do this but the lobby industry is their cash cow.

    Insurance isn’t a “right”. Lifestyle choices matter. The person who smokes, drinks, doesn’t work out, is overweight should not pay the same as the person who eats correct, doesn’t smoke or drink, is fit and works out. This is no different then paying higher when you have a bad drivers record.

    “food” and “housing” aren’t rights either and arguably much more important than health care.

About Issues & Insights

Issues & Insights is run by the seasoned journalists behind the legendary IBD Editorials page. Our goal is to bring our decades of combined journalism experience to help readers understand the top issues of the day. We’re doing this on a voluntary basis, because we believe the nation needs the kind of cogent, rational, data-driven, fact-based commentary that we can provide. 

We Could Use Your Help

Help us fight for honesty in journalism and against the tyranny of the left. Issues & Insights is published by the editors of what once was Investor's Business Daily's award-winning opinion pages. If you like what you see, leave a donation by clicking on donate button above. You can also set up regular donations if you like. Ad revenue helps, but your support will truly make a difference. (Please note that we are not set up as a charitable organization, so donations aren't tax deductible.) Thank you!
%d bloggers like this: