During a CNN town hall on Jan. 12, Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan was asked by a former Republican voter, Jeff Jeans, why he supported repealing the life-saving Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare (video below).
Jeans told Ryan about his volunteering on the campaigns of former Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, and added: "Just like you, I was opposed to the Affordable Care Act."
Jeans then recalled how he changed his mind when he got ill:
When it was passed, I told my wife we would close our business before I comply with this law. Then at 49, I was given six weeks to live with a very curable type of cancer. We offered three times the cost of my treatments, which was rejected. They required an insurance card.
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, I’m standing here today alive. Being both a small business person and someone with preexisting conditions, I rely on the Affordable Care Act to be able to purchase my own insurance. Why would you repeal the Affordable Care Act without a replacement?
"Oh, we wouldn't," Ryan replied. "We want to replace it with something better."
Ryan didn't say what that "something better" was.
"I want to thank President Obama from the bottom of my heart because I would be dead if it weren’t for him," Jeans added.
Ryan blamed rising insurance premiums in various states on the Affordable Care Act even though the Affordable Care Act has no authority to regulate premium prices, which are set by the insurance companies and regulated by the states.
Ryan said that the Affordable Care Act is "collapsing," and asserted there was a better way to cover people without high premiums, and told Jeans to go to the House GOP website to see what their plan is.
Ryan mentioned that he wanted to have "state high-risk pools," which are catastrophic health care plans with very high deductibles. Ryan didn't say how states would pay for those high-risk pools.
Ryan asserted that these high-risk pools will result in "dramatically lowering the cost of insurance for everybody else."
State high-risk pools do not force insurance companies to lower their premium prices.
Ryan insisted that competitive rates would lower the cost of insurance, however, insurance companies are free right now to have competitive rates under the Affordable Care Act. Those competitive rates are posted on the insurance marketplace websites.
Ryan noted that some multi-billion dollar insurance companies have pulled out of selling individual plans in some states, but HealthInsurance.org noted in March 2016 that those same companies are reaping enormous profits because of the Affordable Care Act:
Despite record-breaking profits year after year, health insurance company executives would like us to believe that Obama has been terrible for health insurers. UnitedHealth’s CEO Stephen Hemsley, who made more than $66 million in 2014, said in November that the company might stop selling policies on the Obamacare exchanges in 2017 because financial results from that segment of its operations have so far been lower than executives had hoped. He said a few weeks ago that the company lost $720 million in 2015 on its individual health insurance business.
... Meanwhile, UnitedHealth has been making money hand over fist from federal and state governments, thanks to Obama, just as WellCare has. In fact, far more than half of the $157 billion it took in last year came from Medicare, Medicaid and other government programs (i.e., from you and me, the taxpayers).
While most Americans probably think that the big for-profit insurers get most of their revenue from the private sector -- from individuals and employers that provide coverage to their workers -- that is no longer true. In fact, if Anthem’s acquisition of Cigna and Aetna’s acquisition of Humana are approved later this year, the remaining big three for-profit insurers -- Aetna, Anthem and UnitedHealth -- will collect most of their revenues from the government, not from their commercial (private) customers.
Why? As the nation has been aging, enrollment in Medicare has been growing at a fast clip, but enrollment in commercial health plans has been largely nonexistent for years. Just look at how Anthem’s business changed in just one recent year. At the end of 2014, the majority of Anthem’s revenues still came from its commercial health insurance customers. During 2015, however, revenues from the commercial side of its operations actually declined by 4.2 percent, to $37.6 billion, while revenues from its government operations skyrocketed by 21 percent, to $40.1 billion.
So as you can see from these numbers, the biggest customer for the biggest private insurers now is none other than … Uncle Sam. And the states, most of which have turned to private insurers to operate their Medicaid programs, comprise their second biggest customer.
Reuters reports that House Republicans moved ahead with their plan to dismantle the Affordable Care Act on Jan. 13.