Blame Flawed Obamacare, Not Prescription Drug Costs, For Rising Healthcare Premiums

David Williams

October 5, 2016

This article originally appeared in Independent Journal Review on September 29, 2016

It has been a tumultuous year for the U.S. healthcare system and consumers. Between the mass exodus of large insurance companies leaving the Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchanges, and a continuous slew of co-op failures, American taxpayers have been busy trying to wrap their minds—and finances—around the fact that they will most likely be paying much more for their health care plans than they did in previous years.

Now, insurers are trying to cover up an important piece of news: that the costs of prescription medicines may not be the real reason for increased healthcare costs today.

A recent report from the Altarum Institute found that spending on prescription medicines grew by just 3.9 percent from July 2015 to July 2016, a significant decrease from last year’s spending. From 2013-2015, Altarum cites the expansion of ACA coverage and the development of new Hepatitis C medicines as the primary reasons for respective cost increases of 8.5 percent and 12.5 percent. However, it’s important to keep in mind that one factor resulted in a new cure, while the other has continually left taxpayers in the dark and frustrated with their plans. Today, it’s clear that insurers have failed to not only provide consumers with affordable coverage, but they have also failed to uphold some of the original tenets of President Obama’s health care law.

Spending on prescription medicines has reached the lowest level this country has seen over the past three years, but it doesn’t come as a surprise that insurers are still using the biopharmaceutical industry as a scapegoat to deflect the significant contributions to rising health care costs. Instead of acknowledging that the ACA exchanges are failing, healthcare providers continue to ignore other cost drivers, many of which they themselves are responsible for, such as working in tandem with the government and doubling their premium rates in a majority of states. One might argue that in today’s healthcare landscape, insurers are doing anything but their job, which is to provide consumers with a number of quality, accessible and affordable health care plans.

With the November election edging closer, consumers, patients and businesses must continue to navigate the messy dynamics that now characterize the ACA, and learn to separate the rhetoric surrounding the costs of new medicines from the reality. Put simply, prescription drug spending is lower and insurers are trying to hide that fact. For the sake of consumers and businesses, we cannot allow this behavior to continue in 2017.

As taxpayers continue to look towards Washington for solutions that will improve our ever-changing healthcare system, it’s important to recognize that more competition in the marketplace drives innovation, keeps costs down, and sharpens our focus on the development of new treatments and cures. If American taxpayers deserve anything in 2017, it’s a healthcare system that works. Insurers owe Americans that much, and the government must work to hold them accountable or risk hurting consumers and taxpayers even more.

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