Those High Obamacare Deductibles Aren’t So High After All

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Republicans have been griping for years about the “worthless” health insurance provided by Obamacare. Why worthless? Because the deductibles are so high.

This takes some serious chutzpah, since high-deductible insurance has been a favorite Republican meme for decades. Practically every Republican health care proposal is based on some combination of high-deductible plans and health savings accounts, and Trumpcare is no exception. Under Trumpcare, average deductibles would increase considerably and HSAs would double in value. The only reason you haven’t heard about this is because Republicans have kept pretty quiet about it. You see, conservatives love it, but voters don’t. They just want health insurance to pay the damn bills.

But shameless or not, it’s still true that many people on the Obamacare exchanges buy plans with deductibles of $3,000 or more. That’s a drag. Of course, before Obamacare lots of people with individual insurance bought plans with high deductibles too. So what we really want to know is whether this changed when Obamacare went into effect. Here are the latest numbers from the CDC:

Among those with individual insurance, high-deductible plans have stayed dead level since Obamacare took effect. It’s had zero effect on the number of people who choose to buy less expensive plans with higher deductibles.

On the other hand, employer plans have been getting steadily crummier the entire time, and once again this has nothing to do with Obamacare. Deductibles have gone up solely because large companies have chosen to pare down their health coverage even though corporate profits are at an all-time high.

This is just the latest in a long list of Obamacare disasters that have turned out not to be. It didn’t send the cost of health care skyrocketing. Obamacare didn’t destroy part-time jobs. It’s not in a death spiral. Premiums haven’t been higher than originally projected. And now we know that it’s had no effect on deductibles either.

Obamacare does have a few real problems. They are generally small and technical, and could be fixed very easily. But fixing Obamacare wouldn’t provide a big tax cut for the rich, so Republicans aren’t interested. That’s all you need to know about why they hate it so much.

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THE BIG PICTURE

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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