Obamacare Scorecard: Takers Taking, Makers Breaking

When market research company J.D. Power released its 2015 Health Insurance Marketplace Exchange Shopper and Re-Enrollment (HIX) Study last Thursday, progressive health care reporters rushed to their laptops to declare Obama’s remarkable achievement:

Wowie!
Obamacare customers
are more satisfied
than people with job-based plans!

Vox’s Sarah Kliff offered her ‘splainer of the study, which was based on data collected from December 9, 2014, through February 24, 2015. 

People who had coverage through Obamacare had an average satisfaction score of 696 in 2014, thinking back to their last year of coverage. During that same year, people in mostly employer-based plans had a satisfaction rating of 679 — 17 points lower.

So did Sarah Ferris at The Hill:

People who bought coverage through ObamaCare are generally more satisfied than those with other types of insurance, according to a new national survey. ObamaCare customers rated their satisfaction over the last year as 696 out of 1,000, compared to the 679-point rating by customers with employer-based plans, according to a large survey by the consumer research firm J.D. Power.

And let’s not forget young Jonathan Cohn, who wrote a Huffington Post piece titled Obamacare News That Should Make Conservatives Happy, But Won’t:

J.D. Power uses a numerical index, from zero (low) to 1,000 (high), to measure consumer satisfaction. The figure for Affordable Care Act consumers was 696. To put that in perspective, the figure for people with employer-sponsored insurance — the source of coverage for most working-age Americans — was 670 [sic].

Here’s a question for Kliff, Ferris, and Cohn:

Are you really surprised that getting free stuff is popular?

…especially since J.D. Power found that “cost is the most influential attribute driving satisfaction among Marketplace plan members?”

Reporters of all stripes ought to know why Obamacare customers are happier than those in employer plans.

  • Obamacare enrollees enjoy the taxpayer’s helping hand with their premiums: in 2014, 90 percent received premium subsidies, and 69 percent paid $100 or less per month. 
  • Those in job-based plans are being increasingly hammered by rising out-of-pocket costs, as employers reduce benefits to avoid Obamacare’s Cadillac Tax. 

The New York Times provides one example of the excise tax’s impact on workers.

Starting this year, they have a combined deductible of $2,300, compared with just $500 before. And while she was eligible for a $1,400 hospital contribution to a savings account linked to the plan, the couple is now responsible for $6,600 a year in medical expenses, in contrast to a $3,000 limit on medical bills and $2,000 limit on pharmacy costs last year. She has had to drop out of school and take on additional jobs to pay for her husband’s medicine.

Remember: Obamacare enrollees don’t have to pay the Cadillac Tax; only those with company plans suffer that burden.

The real story in the J.D. Power release, though, is not found in comparisons of people with different types of coverage: it’s found when one examines the insurance satisfaction index over time.

In 2009, the year before Obamacare was passed, that number was 712 out of 1000. In 2010, it plummeted to 701. And now, for those with employer-provided insurance, that number is 679 — and 696 for those in the individual market.

In their reports, the research firm (strangely) never mentions the sampling errors and confidence intervals that would allow for meaningful year-by-year comparisons. However, they do say they consider a ten-point change to be significant.

So overall, Americans are vastly less satisfied with their health insurance since Obamacare started monkeying around with it. That’s the story.

But our progressive health care journos didn’t write about that tidbit, did they? 

Instead, they put a happy face on the numbers, gleefully announcing that those getting freebies are happy with their free provisions, and those subsidizing those freebies are much less so. 

Duh. They must think their readers were educated at the Jonathan Gruber School of Stupid.

[Sigh] It’s all fun and games until we “run out of other people’s money.”

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