The Obama Administration pitched Obamacare as a benefit to a number of groups, but perhaps none more so than women. Yet, I’ve heard from countless women across Kentucky about how Obamacare is hurting them and their families. With 280,000 canceled policies in Kentucky thanks to Obamacare, too many women have lost the coverage they had and trusted.
These policies were contemptuously dismissed by the president’s allies as “junk,” reflecting this administration’s “we know what’s best for you” approach to governing. It’s no surprise that, according to a recent CNN poll, support for Obamacare has dropped to a record low among women, with 60 percent of them opposed to the law.
Under Obamacare, Kentucky mothers who are making health care decisions for themselves and their families are noticing a big change in health care costs. Take the problems of Lana Lynch of Brandenburg. “My out-of-pocket [health care] expenses for my family of five went from $1,500 a year to $7,000 a year,” she wrote me.
Women without children are also expressing their concerns. Another constituent of mine, Cheryl Russell of Owensboro, wrote to say, “According to our insurance company, we will have to take pediatric dental and vision insurance—we don’t have kids. It will cost us over $150 more a month, plus our deductible goes up $5,700…we are 58 and 56 years old; we will have to work the rest of our life just to pay for our insurance. This isn’t fair and it isn’t right.”
I am saddened that Cheryl is finding out, as have many other Kentuckians, that premiums, deductibles, and out-of-pocket expenses will rise in 2014 thanks to Obamacare. In fact, a recent study found that premiums will rise an average of 47 percent in Kentucky, and I’ve heard many constituents are facing even steeper increases—sometimes greater than 100 percent.
I also heard from Beverly of Pleasureville about her difficult experience in searching for plans on the exchange. She wrote, “My husband had a kidney transplant in 2006, and his transplant team is in Cincinnati…none of his transplant team, physicians or hospital, were accepting this coverage.” They had to pay much higher rates just to ensure continuity of care.
It’s not a surprise I have heard from so many of Kentucky’s mothers, daughters, and sisters. Respected studies show that women make 80 percent of health care decisions, and they care deeply about how this law will impact their families. Unfortunately, many of them like Beverly have fewer choices of doctors and hospitals because under Obamacare, insurers are incentivized to shrink their provider networks to limit further premium increases. Families are losing the ability to go to health facilities they know and trust.
More than 8 million women-owned small businesses in America, employing more than 7.8 million people, will be especially hard hit by the law. I’ve heard from many Kentucky women small-business owners who fear they will be unable to bear the higher costs of Obamacare coverage for their employees and are reducing hiring, cutting hours, or laying off staff to avoid these costs.
And women account for the majority of all Medicaid enrollees in Kentucky—more than 55 percent. But Obamacare will add an additional 300,000 Kentuckians onto our state’s already strained Medicaid system, offering the promise of coverage, but not providing access to the huge number of new doctors needed to make good on that promise. Kentucky already suffers from a shortage of doctors. More additions to the Medicaid rolls will only dash expectations of more Kentucky women who are in need of healthcare.
Mothers and families in Kentucky will face higher taxes under Obamacare, too. For instance, millions of American families use Flexible Spending Accounts to help make ends meet for things like childcare or out-of-pocket health care expenses. But Obamacare places new limits on how much families can set aside in these accounts and prevents them from being used for many of the most common medical expenses like over-the-counter cold or allergy medicines.
The bottom line is that Obamacare is forcing many Kentucky families to pay higher prices for fewer choices. A letter I received from Giselle Martino of Prospect sums it up well. “I am now forced into the exchange for a lesser plan with more exclusions and higher deductibles,” she wrote. “I will most likely never reach those deductibles. How does this help me? What a disappointment this administration has caused.”
Giselle is right. Her experiences—along with those of Cheryl, Beverly, and thousands of other women across the state—prove that Obamacare has been a disaster for Kentucky. Government doesn’t know better than Kentucky women when it comes to their and their family’s health care. Washington should instead repeal Obamacare and focus on common-sense, step-by-step reforms that lower costs and promote health care choices for women and for all our citizens.
Mitch McConnell is a U.S. Senator representing Kentucky.