Issues & Insights

Obamacare At 10: A Big F-ing Failure

I&I Editorial

Ten years ago this month, when President Obama Barack was signing Obamacare into law, Vice President Joe Biden said to him in a stage whisper “This is a big f***ing deal.” A decade later, Obamacare has turned out to be a big f***ing failure. And Biden is now promising to expand it.

Remember “you can keep your plan”? Or “family premiums will go down by $2,500”? How about the claim that Obamacare would cut the number of uninsured in half? That it would dramatically reduce the federal deficit? And that it would make the health care industry more efficient?

None of it came true. The very name of the law – The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – was an exercise in false advertising.

Affordable? Premiums in the individual market doubled in Obamacare’s first four years. The result was that millions of middle-class families found themselves priced out of the insurance market altogether. Patient protection? Those who could afford the premiums faced enormous deductibles for HMO-style plans that strictly limited which doctors they could see and hospitals they could use – unless they wanted to pay the entire costs out of pocket.

Those who get insurance through work didn’t see any savings, either. Where Obama promised that families would see premiums drop by $2,500,  they went up faster in the five years after Obamacare than in the five years before. (Premiums for employer-provided family coverage climbed 27% from 2010 to 2015, compared with 26% from 2005 to 2010, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.)

Overhead costs now claim a bigger share of national health spending than they did before Obamacare – going from 6.7% in 2010 to 8.4% in 2018, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The electronic health records that Obama mandated have made health care less efficient, caused new types of medical errors, and have produced waves of doctor burnout.

Here’s another way to gauge the failure of Obamacare:

Back in March 2010, the Congressional Budget Office – which is supposed to be nonpartisan but in fact employs liberal economic models in everything it does – predicted what health care would look like in the first 10 years of Obamacare.

The CBO claimed there would be 24 million people getting insurance through the Obamacare exchanges by now. The actual number: 9 million.

It predicted that 51 million would be on Medicaid after Obamacare expanded eligibility – and that was assuming that every state adopted the expansion plan. Today, there are 69 million on Medicaid. That’s 35% more than the CBO projected, even though more than a dozen states refused to expand the program.

The CBO said that the number of uninsured would have dropped to 23 million, representing just 8% of the population. This year, 32 million people – or 11% of the population lack insurance.

Meanwhile, Obamacare’s subsidy costs are far higher than promised. Instead of an average of $6,000 for those getting Obamacare subsidies in the exchanges, the actual number tops $7,700.

And remember all those promises that Obamacare would produce some deficit reduction in the first 10 years and $1 trillion over the second decade? Didn’t happen.

The CBO concluded that repealing Obamacare would save $338 billion over the next decade.

None of Obamacare’s failings can be blamed on Republican attempts to sabotage the law. Double-digit premiums were the norm long before President Donald Trump entered the White House. Most of the heavily subsidized non-profit “co-op” plans – which were supposed to keep premiums in check – had already failed. The Republicans’ repeal of the individual mandate had no impact on enrollment. Nor did expanding “short-term” insurance plans that bypass Obamacare’s massive and costly regulatory regime. What’s more, Obamacare premiums have been flat over the past two years.

So what is the Democrats’ answer to Obamacare’s litany of lies and false promises? What is their response to the fact that more government intervention in the health care system produced higher costs, more hassles and no noticeable improvement in the quality of health care?

Joe Biden wants to build on Obamacare by expanding its subsidies and introducing a private-insurance-killing “public option.” He even repeated Obama’s “keep your plan” lie. Sen. Bernie Sanders wants to socialize the health care industry outright.

For Democrats, the answer to government failure is always more government.

— Written by John Merline

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


  • BOBScare was always supposed to be a dismal failure, as was everything else that BOBS did while in office.
    BOBS goal was not to help this country to become better, it was to turn the US into a 3rd world country. BOBS got pretty close to doing all that, and more. Be very thankful that Hellary was not elected or we would all be standing line mile long lines hoping to get a loaf of bread and a bottle of vodka.

      • problem? problem?? what problem??? it’s all a Chinese/Democrat witch hunt hoax…it’s a disgrace…but we have a beautiful solution…perfect just like my call to the Ukraine…cough…cough…somebody open a window, it’s hot in here.

    • Sorry, you actually believe that Obama had an explicit goal to make America into a 3rd world country?

      That makes absolutely no sense.

  • Who could have ever predicted a failure of the government takeover of the medical insurance industry?

  • According to the Congressional Budget Office

    — 18 million people lose coverage first year
    — 32 million more people lost coverage in ten years after
    — premiums up 25% on the individual market
    — up to doubling within 10 years
    — Children younger than 26 on parents insurance gone
    — pre-existing condition ban gone

    Obamacare was designed to crash the health care market should it be repealed with replacement. I don’t think you’d like the socialists who get elected to replace it.

    • and before that more than 100 million had no care at all…eassy math

  • Is it ever! I don’t know anyone who’s insurance went down. The only ones who seem to have benefited are illegal aliens.

  • As P.J. O’Rourke said (pre ACA passage), “If you think health care is bad now, just wait until it’s free.” Came true.

  • So we are just choosing to ignore the fact that the individual mandate was repealed, guaranteeing Obamacare to fail?

    • Obamacare enrollment and costs actually stabilized after the individual mandate was repealed, so I’m not sure how that is guaranteeing failure.

  • Guess Bernie’s idea is better then…Helluva situation in the middle of a pandemic to have 10’s of millions of our fellows unable to afford to go to a doctor or stay home from work.

  • How many Americans died needlessly over the past 10 years because of OmamaCare? Due to loss of previously obtain health insurance, the loss of competent doctors, etc. Wouldn’t this place omama up there with stalin, mao, idi amin and pol pot as the worse mass murders in human history? Clearly these hundreds of thousands Anericans would have lived longer if not for this monstrosity.

    • Love a conservative. Only such bright people would claim that if you significantly reduce the number of uninsured and cancel preexisting condition exclusions would you kill more people. Yep, give more people insurance and stop denying those who really really need it and more people will die.
      Uninsured in 2010 – 48 million. Uninsured in 2015, 28 million. The good news is we elected Trump so now the uninsured (and under insured) are going back. Today, uninsured number about 32 million.

  • Every other country in the world delivers healthcare, on a per capita for much less than what spend. The developed countries do it nearly as well or better than we do. What is most frustrating though is the Republicans don’t appreciate that spending 18% of GDP rather 12% as Canada does, means that the difference is a huge tax on businesses and consumers. Lee Iaccoca explained in the 1980′, nearly 40 years ago, that our healthcare costs added $700 more per vehicle compared to building the same car in Canada. What surprise then that Canada now builds more “American” cars than Michigan does. Today Canada spends less than $5,000 per person, we spend $10,500. Yet, Canadians chance of surviving cancer, avoiding medical errors, getting vaccinations and host of other measures are just as good as ours. In one, very very important way they completely out distance us. Medical costs are rarely a cause of personal bankruptcy in Canada. In the US, they are single largest cause.
    If get act together and deliver care as cheaply as Singapore, Germany, Sweden, Canada, France, Switzerland, etc. etc. etc. we could give consumers and business the big increase in real income in the history of our country. About $1 of every $4 spent on healthcare in the United States may be squandered due to a combination of potentially avoidable administrative hassles, failures in coordination and delivery of services, use of treatments of little care, and fraud, a study found. That translates into nearly $900 billion per year. Why can we do what every other 1st world country has managed to do?

  • America needs more contributors and fewer takers. I did not work hard my whole life to support you. By the way, we are spending north of $7k a year for Medicare and a supplement with dental and eyesight and many, many preventive healthcare items out of pocket. Be careful what you wish for. Government is not well suited to handling day to day medical care nor should it be.

    • Why is our government so incompetent. The government of every other developed country either delivers healthcare ( the UK) or manages it like Japan, Canada, Germany, Sweden, Australia, et al. Why are we so incompetent. Why to you have some much faith in the private sector with brought preexisting condition exclusions and opioid crisis?

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