Guy Benson


Kathleen Sebelius acknowledged in Congressional testimony last week that Obamacare premiums will rise in 2015, retreating to the sad spin that the rate increases would be lower than they might have in a hypothetical universe. Setting aside the fact that all Americans were promised substantially lower rates, Sebelius' hedging is belied by a report in The Hill entitled, "O-Care premiums to skyrocket:"


Health industry officials say ObamaCare-related premiums will double in some parts of the country, countering claims recently made by the administration. The expected rate hikes will be announced in the coming months amid an intense election year, when control of the Senate is up for grabs. The sticker shock would likely bolster the GOP’s prospects in November and hamper ObamaCare insurance enrollment efforts in 2015. The industry complaints come less than a week after Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sought to downplay concerns about rising premiums in the healthcare sector. She told lawmakers rates would increase in 2015 but grow more slowly than in the past. “The increases are far less significant than what they were prior to the Affordable Care Act,” the secretary said in testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee. Her comment baffled insurance officials, who said it runs counter to the industry’s consensus about next year. “It’s pretty shortsighted because I think everybody knows that the way the exchange has rolled out … is going to lead to higher costs,” said one senior insurance executive who requested anonymity. The insurance official, who hails from a populous swing state, said his company expects to triple its rates next year on the ObamaCare exchange.


As Sebelius testified, insurers -- who know where rates are headed in the coming months -- were "baffled" by her attempts to minimize what's coming. As we've predicted, another round of cancellations and premium shock is set to hit this coming fall. Sebelius' state of denial suggests that Democrats will be blindsided by their own law. Again. Moving on to access shock. Obamacare exchange enrollees will have severely curtailed access to many of the country's finest cancer treatment centers, according to an Associated Press review:


Some of America's best cancer hospitals are off-limits to many of the people now signing up for coverage under the nation's new health care program. Doctors and administrators say they're concerned. So are some state insurance regulators. An Associated Press survey found examples coast to coast. Seattle Cancer Care Alliance is excluded by five out of eight insurers in Washington's insurance exchange. MD Anderson Cancer Center says it's in less than half of the plans in the Houston area. Memorial Sloan-Kettering is included by two of nine insurers in New York City and has out-of-network agreements with two more. In all, only four of 19 nationally recognized comprehensive cancer centers that responded to AP's survey said patients have access through all the insurance companies in their states' exchanges ... "This is a marked deterioration of access to the premier cancer centers for people who are signing up for these plans," Mendelson said. Those patients may not be able get the most advanced treatment, including clinical trials of new medications. And there's another problem: it's not easy for consumers shopping online in the new insurance markets to tell if top-level institutions are included in a plan. That takes additional digging by the people applying.


In other words, many of Obamacare's coverage networks are more exclusive than ever, closing off consumers' access to top-flight care and new forms of treatment -- plus, it's burdensome for prospective consumers to determine which facilities accept various plans. A hospital CEO in New Hampshire decries the new system, arguing that Obamacare is leaving patients "out in the cold:"


Felgar has worked at Frisbee for 21 years and remembers when there were dozens of insurance companies writing policies in the state. Now, under the Affordable Care Act, New Hampshire citizens have only one provider to choose from. Felgar doesn't understand why Anthem was given a monopoly in the state under the ACA and says, "They control everything." He said Anthem was able to "choose the 16 hospitals they want to play ball with," while those who didn't make the cut are out in the cold. "When a hospital is knocked out of 'Obamacare,' most of the doctors are unable to participate," he said. This has left 10 hospitals in the state and the majority of Frisbie's 14 physician practices from being included in Anthem's coverage under the ACA. "The whole process stinks," he said. "We've got many, many patients who will sign up under the Affordable Care Act, but they can't go to the hospital they've been going to for decades." Felgar believes it is "grossly unfair" for people to have to leave their communities and give up their doctors to be treated.


I'll leave you with a Wall Street Journal piece previewing next year's tax day Obamacare nightmare. Protip: Claim a "hardship waiver," especially if you're young and healthy. It's easy, it's free, and it requires no verification.


Guy Benson

Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Senior Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography