Russell: Obamacare forcing businesses to make tough choices
One by one, the Obamacare health insurance co-ops have gone belly-up: 16 of the 23 original Obamacare co-ops have failed, with 13 of them collapsing since last September, costing taxpayers over 1.5 billion.
In 2010, the Obama administration launched the 23 government-funded co-ops with $2.4 billion taxpayer dollars, hoping the co-ops would provide affordable alternative health care options for Americans and boost competition, resulting in lower health care costs across the board. Instead, health care costs have soared.
“I think it shows why you had such skepticism,” Rep. Steve Russell (R-OK) recently told Patient Daily. “People were trying to frame this up as some other discussion or some other issue, but many people and health care experts had always looked at the difficulty of what would move toward a single-payer system.”
Trying to work with co-ops when there is a patchwork of state laws, and then having a very complicated federal system that essentially eliminates free market and choice in health care, has not proven to work well, according to Russell.
The collapse of the co-ops has left over 800,000 insurance consumers without coverage, with some predicting that every single co-op will eventually fail.
“I think we absolutely have to, one, admit that this hasn’t been working; it doesn’t work -- prices have gone through the roof,” Russell said. “A $6,000 deductible is not insurance, even if you think it is and you’re in the system.”
Russell said Oklahoma is down to just one insurer: Blue Cross Blue Shield.
“That’s not, ‘If you like your (plan) you can keep it’ -- I think America sees that,” he said.
Before entering politics, Russell served in the U.S. Army for 21 years and retired as a highly decorated lieutenant colonel.
As a business owner of a rifle manufacturing company with fewer than 50 employees, Russell said he provides insurance for his workers not because he has to, but because he knows they need it.
“When you don’t have a competitive market for one, and then you’re forcing employers to make very difficult decisions,” he said.
Those decisions involve employers having to cut back on hiring or curbing employee hours to bump them down to part-time status so they don’t qualifying for benefits, Russell stated, adding that, in Oklahoma, health care costs have risen by well over 200 percent.
“If we’re going to have solutions in health care, they need to come from the free market and the free market of ideas, not some arcane system that is controlled by the government and is very unresponsive,” he said.