Democrats remain in gloating mode following the failure of GOP efforts on health care. The realities of Obamacare and its structural deficiencies, however, threaten to break up the celebration.
On Tuesday, California announced the second consecutive year of double-digit premium increases for plans sold as part of the grossly misnamed Affordable Care Act. Those who lack employer coverage and are forced by law to purchase insurance on the exchange will see costs rise an average of 12.5 percent. That follows a 13 percent hike last year.
But that may sound like a fire-sale deal to people in other parts of the country. The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that “big insurers in Idaho, West Virginia, South Carolina, Iowa and Wyoming are seeking to raise premiums by averages close to 30 percent or higher.” Other states, such as New Mexico, Tennessee, North Dakota and Hawaii, expect hikes of at least 20 percent, the paper revealed.
In more bleak news, financial losses have led insurers to abandon 47 counties completely — including 14 in rural Nevada — while 1,200 others are expected to have only one company offering coverage, the Washington Free Beacon reported last month. Yet barring a change in the law, residents of areas without an insurer will still be required to pay the federal penalty for failing to purchase coverage.
Democrats will blame this fiasco on their cohorts across the aisle — and there’s no question the uncertainty surrounding the long-term fate of Obamacare has had a deleterious effect. In fact, however, the law, a massive expansion of the public sector passed amid a series of willful deceptions and misrepresentations, has been the victim of its own inherent flaws, most prominently the notion that insurers and mandates could easily shift the cost of caring for the sick onto the backs of healthy young people.
In addition, this house of cards stands upon an unsustainable and complicated system of taxpayer handouts designed to compensate insurance companies for keeping costs down for low-income enrollees on the exchanges.
Even the measure’s signature achievement — a reduction in the number of uninsured Americans — was largely the result of expanding an open-ended and fiscally fragile entitlement, Medicaid, to include able-bodied adults, a move that will eventually threaten state budgets.
Democrats will now browbeat the president and congressional Republicans into “shoring up” the individual marketplace — which is progressive doubletalk to describe the first of what would be a regular stream of taxpayer bailouts. Republicans should resist, but given their recent implosion on Obamacare repeal and replace, that seems unlikely.
Meanwhile, the small-business owners and self-employed who aren’t eligible for the generous Obamacare subsidies will continue to get hammered by the premium increases. But while Republicans deserve to be held accountable for their broken promises regarding the Affordable Care Act, let’s not lose sight of who birthed this monstrosity in the first place.
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