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NOEM: The Affordable Care Act’s unaffordability

  By Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D.

Since the new health care exchanges opened on Oct. 1, my office has received dozens of calls and letters from South Dakota families who are seeing their premiums skyrocket. Some of the South Dakotans calling into our office have explained that even when their plans were grandfathered in, their premiums were not.

One family had to triple its deductable from $2,500 to $7,500 in order to get premiums down to where they were before Obamacare. That’s just not acceptable, and in many cases, it’s not affordable either.

We learned earlier this month that just 27,000 Americans signed up for coverage on between Oct. 1 and Nov. 1. Just 58 of those individuals were South Dakotans. Much of the blame for low enrollment numbers has been placed on website glitches, but as the president has said on many occasions, the Affordable Care Act is more than a website — and I agree.

Even in states that ran their own exchanges and had a working sign-up website, enrollment was low. Just over 75,000 enrollees entered the program in these states, falling well below expectations.

The poor enrollment is more than a communications problem for the administration. It is also a fundamental problem for the program. The health care exchanges were designed with an understanding that large amounts of young, healthy people needed to sign up in order to balance out the costs of older and less healthy individuals. Low enrollment figures mean these young people aren’t signing up, which could cause premiums to increase even more.

We need to protect as many people as we can with reforms to the ACA, but temporary fixes, such as allowing individuals to stay on their current plans for one more year, won’t fix the health care law’s underlying problems. The only way to do that is to replace the ACA with a consumer-driven approach.

I co-sponsored one such alternative, the American Health Care Reform Act. This legislation would increase competition by allowing Americans to purchase health insurance across state lines. It would reform medical malpractice laws and change the tax code so families and individuals could deduct healthcare costs on their tax filing, just like businesses already do. It would expand access to health savings accounts and still provide a safeguard for individuals with preexisting conditions.

These reforms will give consumers more choices and target the core drivers of healthcare costs. The health care law isn’t working. South Dakotans have called my office and reported that their premiums are rising by $3,000, $7,000, even $12,000 a year because of the new government regulations created by Obamacare. For taxpayers, the costs are also on the rise. President Obama originally estimated the ACA would cost around $900 billion, but more recent projections by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office show it will be closer to $1.8 trillion, double the original estimate.

It’s just not affordable. This week, I launched a new effort to better hear the stories of those who have been impacted. South Dakotans can visit www.Noem.House.Gov/MyStory to tell me about the real impact the Affordable Care Act is having on their family.

Too often we throw around numbers and projections, but here in South Dakota, we are now finding out the real personal costs of the health care law. I look forward to hearing your story.