If you read my column last week about a Senate hearing that showed how Obamacare has affected Americans, you might have wondered if I was in the same room with reporters who presumably covered the event.
The disparity goes a long way toward explaining why so many of us are clueless about the actual impact the law is having on our lives.
The title of the May 21 Senate Commerce Committee hearing: “Delivering Better Health Care Value to Consumers: The First Three Years of the Medical Loss Ratio.” I was one of four witnesses talking about the part of the law that requires health insurers to issue rebates to policyholders if they spend more than 20 percent of premiums on non-medical expenses, including profits — the so-called Medical Loss Ratio.
Prior to the passage of the law, insurance company executives — who consider what they spend on medical care to be a loss — were in many cases devoting up to half of premiums they collected to pay for advertising and other administrative functions and to reward executives and shareholders.
As I wrote last week, consumers have saved at least $3 billion since the provision of the law that mandates insurers must spend at least 80 percent of our premiums on medical care went into effect in 2011.
The hearing wasn’t just about numbers, however. Katherine Fernandez, a small business owner from Houston, testified about how the MLR provision and other aspects of the law have enabled her family to pay less for far more comprehensive coverage than was possible in the past.
She told the committee that because both her husband and son had pre-existing conditions, the only policies available to them pre-Obamacare would not cover any medical care pertaining to those maladies. And even then the policies had both high premiums and high deductibles. She said that during the 14 years prior to the law’s passage, her family paid more than $100,000 in premiums for what she described as bare-bones coverage. And the premiums went up sharply every year — 165 percent between 2000 and 2003 alone.
She said she was elated when the Affordable Care Act passed. “No more pre-existing condition clauses … and insurance companies had to refund some of what we paid if they didn’t spend enough. What reasonable ideas.”
If you read the accounts of the hearing in The Washington Post, USA Today, Politico or CBS News — the only news outlets I could find that provided any coverage — you would not have read anything about the $3 billion consumers have saved as a result of the MLR provision or how the law has benefited the Fernandez family.