It has been six weeks since the launch of the online marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. The many problems with the online exchanges have been well-documented, and have yet to be resolved. These problems go well beyond technical glitches. They underscore the incredible complexity of Obamacare, which is creating a health care crisis far worse than even critics of the law predicted.
Over the past several weeks, millions of Americans including many Nebraskans have been surprised to learn their current insurance plans are being cancelled to meet new mandates and requirements created by the federal government. This week, the largest health insurance provider in Nebraska announced it has cancelled policies covering more than 80,000 Nebraskans. At least eight other insurance companies have left the individual market in Nebraska.
Back in August, I held a series of public meetings to discuss health care issues across the Third District. At one of the stops, I met a self-employed small business owner. She had affordable insurance which covered a pre-existing condition and met her needs. However, because of Obamacare, she will lose the coverage she likes on January 1. She has attempted to find out what options are available to her on healthcare.gov, the 1-800 number, and using the "live chat' feature on the website. So far, she has not found any answers.
Unfortunately, her story is not unique. Even though tens of thousands of Nebraskans are losing their health insurance, less than 350 Nebraskans have signed up for insurance through the exchanges. In addition to losing their insurance, these individuals are now threatened with a new individual mandate "tax" if they do not purchase government defined minimum coverage by the end of the open enrollment period.
I have also heard from many Nebraskans who cannot afford the plan they currently have because their rates have increased so much due to new federal mandates. A new study by the Manhattan Institute found Nebraskans who purchase their own insurance will see an average premium increase of 74 percent.
Loss of coverage and increased prices are not what the American people were promised. This week, the House passed the bipartisan Keep Your Health Plan Act which would allow health insurance plans available on the individual market today to be offered next year. This legislation would help give insurers and consumers more flexibility and options to comply with the law. There is also growing support for delaying the individual mandate tax. It makes no sense to punish individuals for failing to purchase insurance through a website which does not work. However, these proposals are not a cure for Obamacare's many ills. Although I continue to favor full repeal, correcting this incredibly complex law will at least require major legislative changes.
Obamacare is having devastating consequences for the health insurance market, the economy, and even the basic trust and confidence of the American people in their government. Regardless of how we got here, the President and Congress have an obligation to work together to resolve this crisis and find solutions.