This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The collapse of Utah's cooperative insurance provider, the Arches Health Plan, was not unforeseen, either by those who favor the Affordable Care Act or those who have always hated it.
Count Utah's Sen. Orrin Hatch among the latter. Hearing that the health insurance co-op had been declared insolvent and put into receivership by the Utah Insurance Department, Hatch pressed control-F7 on his computer and spewed forth another Obamacare-will-never-work press release.
Hatch's preferred alternative, the Patient CARE Act, has the advantage of not being Obamacare. But it is at least as complex as the ACA, shifts more costs onto consumers and more work onto states. Worst of all, passing it would force millions of Americans who have finally found health care under the current law back to square one.
Which is what just happened to 63,000 Utahns who will have to find new coverage now that Arches has tanked.
All of this fiddling with rival steampunk assemblages of subsidies, mandates, taxes, exchanges and co-ops continues to burden Americans because Republicans have never accepted, and Democrats have never fully sold, the realization that a country where millions of people do not have access to affordable health care is the skunk in the garden party of First World nations. No truly civilized society would tolerate such a condition.
The establishment of non-profit co-ops was one of many unsatisfying compromises between those who wanted a single-payer, Medicare-for-all design or, at the least, a government-run public option and those who irrationally trusted the private sector to provide what it simply is not willing or able to provide, now or ever, affordable health care for all.
The original ACA had funds to back the co-ops if when they ran out of money. But the Republican-controlled Congress, frustrated by many failed attempts to repeal Obamacare outright, cut back on the guarantees. So at least 10 such organizations around the country have now failed.
Meanwhile, premiums continue to rise and the private insurance sector is consolidating as big firms are bought by bigger ones. There is less and less of the competition that reformers of all ideological stripes were hoping, some with more faith than others, would keep costs down.
What Obamacare opponents do not seem to grasp is that, if it doesn't work, if the co-ops fail and the exchanges don't meet the needs of working families, going back to a pre-ACA jungle will not be a workable or ethical option.
It'll be single-payer, or at least a robust public option. As it should have been from the beginning.