Yes, Of Course People on Obamacare Are Getting Lots of Medical Care

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Jordan Weissmann writes this today:

One of Tom Price’s go-to criticisms of the Affordable Care Act is that it does not, in fact, provide people much in the way of care. The law has helped many Americans obtain insurance, sure. But because the policies have such high deductibles, he argues, patients still can’t afford medical help. “People have coverage, but they don’t have care,” the Health and Human Services secretary likes to say.

We can all agree that high deductibles are a problem. Weissman, however, describes a new study which shows that actual medical care, not just insurance coverage, has increased under Obamacare. This is true of both people covered by the Medicaid expansion and people covered by the exchanges.

But did we really need a lot of fancy statistics to figure this out? Focusing only on the exchanges (since Medicaid has no deductibles):

  • CBO estimates that total federal subsidies this year will amount to $31 billion.
  • Add another third or so paid out of pocket, and we get to $40 billion in total premiums paid to insurance companies.
  • Insurance companies are required to spend 80 percent of premiums on actual medical care, which comes to $32 billion.
  • Finally, the exchanges cover about 10 million people, which means the average Obamacare recipient will receive about $3,200 in medical care this year.

My arithmetic might be off a bit here and there, but not by a lot. One way or another, the average person insured through the Obamacare exchanges receives $3-4,000 in medical care. There’s no way around that.

High deductibles may be a problem, but they aren’t preventing people from getting a pretty considerable amount of medical care that they weren’t getting before. Where do Republicans get this stuff, anyway?

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You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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