Former President Barack Obama celebrated the tenth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, with brief remarks touting the health care program’s supposed successes, attacks on Republicans for opposing it, and a commitment to “finish the job.” While he released a video with Protect Our Care on March 10 in advance of the anniversary, the Obama Foundation released more videos on March 23, the true anniversary.
In reality, Obamacare was arguably the president’s greatest failure. It failed to drive down health care costs. It failed to keep the promise, “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it.” It failed to launch an effective national website. Perhaps most importantly for Obama as a politician, it failed to help Democrats, ushering in tea party Republican wave elections in 2010, 2014, and 2016.
Naturally, none of these failures made it into Obama’s remarks celebrating the anniversary.
“It’s been ten years since we passed the Affordable Care Act. With your help, it’s the closest we’ve ever come to universal coverage in America. There are people alive today because of what you did,” Obama began. “There are 135 million Americans whose pre-existing conditions are now protected because of what you did.”
The former president celebrated the Democrat victories in the 2018 mid-term elections and condemned Republicans for opposing Obamacare.
“That’s something worth celebrating, but it’s also progress worth protecting. You helped protect it with your vote in 2018. But even with a House of Representatives committed to building on the Affordable Care Act, Republicans will keep trying, both in Congress and in the courts, to rip away the care that millions of Americans rely on and to raise costs for millions more,” he warned.
Obama concluded with an ominous call for Democrats to “finish the job” of Obamacare, in what could be seen as an endorsement for socialized medicine.
“So even as we celebrate, we commit ourselves to protecting the progress we’ve made until we finish the job for good with quality affordable coverage for every single American,” he said.
Sure, Obamacare mandated coverage for Americans with pre-existing conditions and this provision remains broadly popular. Yet the Affordable Care Act failed to make health care more affordable.
Obama promised that his health care plan would reduce premiums “up to $2,500 a year per family” or “an average of $2,500 a year per family.” Yet according to the Department of Health and Human Services, “In 2013, the average annual cost of a premium for an individual health care plan was $2,784. By 2017, the average annual cost for a premium for an individual health care plan on HealthCare.gov was $5,712. Thirty-nine states use HealthCare.gov.” In 24 states, premiums doubled and three states had premiums triple over four years. Deductibles also skyrocketed.
Obamacare has been plagued by scandal after scandal. Healthcare.gov launched with great fanfare on October 1, 2013 — and immediately crashed. Only six people managed to sign up that day, and less than half of one percent of visitors were able to enroll in the first week. The website was terribly insecure, with experts warning about vulnerabilities in 2013 and a hacker accessing 70,000 records in four minutes in 2014 — after the Obama administration did not fix the weaknesses. Obamacare set up 23 co-ops with $2.4 billion in tax-free loans, but the co-ops went out of business quickly.
The extremely unpopular individual mandate was initially sold as something other than a tax, but when it was challenged on constitutional grounds, the administration defended it as a tax, and the Supreme Court upheld it as a tax — even though Obamacare arguably would not have passed in the first place if the mandate was considered a tax.
Pro-life Democrats voted for Obamacare after the president had ensured that the bill would not fund abortion medication. Obama promised Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) that he would issue an executive order banning public funding of abortions in the law. This compromise helped Obamacare pass in the first place, but Obama failed to deliver on his promise. In fact, Obamacare ended up mandating coverage of abortion-inducing drugs, double-crossing Stupak. The infamous contraception mandate would lead the Obama administration to take the Little Sisters of the Poor to court and led to a key religious freedom victory in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby (2014).
Then there’s Jonathan Gruber’s infamous comment about keeping Obamacare’s strategy secret in order to pass it despite “the stupidity of the American voter.”
Finally, many have long suspected that Democrats pushed Obamacare as a stop-gap measure in a long-term strategy to get single-payer socialized medicine like Bernie Sanders’s Medicare for All. Obama did not quite endorse Medicare for All in his call for Democrats to “finish the job for good” by ensuring “quality affordable coverage for every single American,” but this statement does advocate for a government expansion into health care.
Obama may celebrate all he wants, but he cannot erase the truth about Obamacare. Far from his greatest achievement, it is really his greatest failure. According to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, only 42 percent of Americans consider it a good idea ten years later.
MUST WATCH: President @BarackObama marks the tenth anniversary of the passage of the Affordable Care Act and calls on the American people to protect the progress we’ve made and thanks #ProtectOurCare for leading the fight. Will you join us? https://t.co/8xvD9K5dIn #ACA10 pic.twitter.com/5AC10yEDdL
— Protect Our Care (@ProtectOurCare) March 10, 2020
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.