"I will tell you, I am not going to let them rip away the progress we made, I am not going to let them tear up that law, kick 16 million people off health coverage and force this country to start the healthcare debate all over again. Not on my watch."
-- Hillary Clinton
On the heels of the Jan. 31 deadline to enroll in healthcare insurance through the Obamacare exchanges for 2016, Hillary Clinton is ramping up her rhetoric in support of the troubled program. Clinton's position differs significantly from opponent Bernie Sanders, who would like to replace Obamacare with healthcare for all, so let's take a closer look at her healthcare plan.
"Never, ever come to pass"
Clinton doesn't think Sanders' Medicare-for-all-style program would ever pass Congress and that debating it could end up erasing decades of advances that includes creating the Children's Healthcare Insurance Program (CHIP), expanding Medicaid, and establishing Obamacare exchanges.
Overall, 14.1 million people have enrolled in CHIP and Medicaid since Obamacare marketplaces opened for business in October 2013, and 12.7 million people enrolled in health insurance plans offered through the exchanges for 2016.
Instead, Clinton argues that Obamacare's faults are fixable.
For example, out-of-pocket healthcare costs are skyrocketing at a pace that exceeds income growth, so Clinton wants to increase the amount of healthcare provided for free to those with insurance and to provide a tax credit for healthcare expenses above a certain level.
Specifically, she proposes that, in addition to preventative care already covered, insurers should cover three doctor visits annually. Clinton also advocates for a $5,000 tax credit for families who pay out-of-pocket medical expenses greater than 5% of their income.
Currently, a tax deduction -- not a credit -- is provided to families when their medical expenses exceed 10% of their adjusted gross income.
Creating a tax credit would help because tax credits lower your tax bill dollar for dollar, while deductions lower your taxable income and thus, your tax savings depend on your tax rate.
Clinton also wants to close a loophole that can caused patients to pay out-of-network charges at in-network hospitals.
Out-of-pocket prescription drug costs can also be a big burden on patients, so Clinton wants to allow Americans to import prescription drugs from other developed countries, such as Canada, where drug prices can be lower.
And after the now infamous Martin Shkreli's Turing Pharmaceuticals acquired a decades-old medicine used to treat a parasitic infection only to raise its price by 5,000%, Clinton announced plans to curb price increases by accelerating FDA review times for generic drugs and to limit patient out-of-pocket spending per month.
Obamacare has reduced the percentage of Americans going without insurance to 11.9%, according to Gallup, but healthcare costs continue to climb, and they're pressuring millions of Americans.
Unfortunately, that isn't likely to change anytime soon, because insurers are still reporting big losses on plans sold through the exchanges. For instance, facing hundreds of millions of dollars in losses this year, the nation's largest insurer -- UnitedHealth Group (NYSE:UNH) -- is debating whether to continue selling plans through the exchanges.
Because Obamacare relies heavily on competition to keep insurance premiums in check, the exit of participants could imperil the program. However, if insurers don't exit, it's likely they'll have to raise premiums even higher to stay in business -- making plans more unaffordable to Americans than ever.
Unfortunately, it's not clear to me yet that Clinton's plan removes that risk.