If you think patients regret ObamaCare, you should hear insurers. In one of the biggest mea culpas yet, the CEO of UnitedHealth Group, Stephen Hemsley, apologized to investors for ever joining the government’s healthcare exchange. It was a particularly significant moment in the ObamaCare debate, since the company is America’s largest health insurer. At a meeting this week, Hemsley said the move had been brutal to their bottom line, resulting in “more than a half-billion dollars in losses.” Like so many companies, UnitedHealth had hoped the new system would be stronger after weathering the initial storms. They were wrong.
“It was, for us, a bad decision,” he admitted. “I take accountability for sitting out the exchange market in year one so we could in theory observe, learn, and see how the market experience would develop. In retrospect, we should have stayed out longer. We did not believe it would form this slowly, be this porous, or become this severe.”
Now, after just a couple years, the company is pulling out. Unfortunately, Hemsley is learning a painful lesson: when you violate the principles of the free market and patient- driven health care (as ObamaCare does), you will pay. With exchange enrollment down and the support around it collapsing, he explained, “We can’t subsidize a market that doesn’t appear at this point to be sustaining itself.”
Of course, Congress hopes that UnitedHealth’s exit from the exchanges coincides with America’s, now that the bill to repeal major pieces of ObamaCare is gaining steam. Meanwhile, the government’s health care system is in for a big shock if more companies like UnitedHealth walk away. Ironically, most of the insurance industry decided to back ObamaCare because they were told how good it would be for business. Turns out, that was just another broken promise to add to the president’s growing collection.
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