Guy Benson


If you had Maryland in your "which state will abandon its insanely expensive Obamacare exchange next?" office pool, you've already seen the bad news: Massachusetts has clinched silver in the wasteful incompetence Olympics. In some sense, Maryland did beat Massachusetts to the punch, but Martin O'Malley's crew decided to spend millions of additional money to adopt Connecticut's exchange technology, rather than transitioning over the Healthcare.gov. Nitpicks aside, the mother of all failures remains Oregon, where the FBI has joined the investigation into that state's now-defunct Obamacare marketplace:


The FBI reportedly is probing the failed launch of Oregon's ObamaCare insurance exchange, joining several other agencies looking into the multimillion-dollar program that was scrapped last month. The Oregonian and KATU first reported on the preliminary investigation. The law enforcement arm of the Department of Health and Human Services' inspector general also is involved, according to The Oregonian. The state exchange, called Cover Oregon, stood out as perhaps the worst-run of all the ObamaCare exchanges. The state decided last month to abandon the system and default to the federally run insurance exchange, on HealthCare.gov. The Wall Street Journal reports that the FBI has interviewed several people as part of the inquiry. The Oregonian reported that the bureau held a 90-minute meeting with a former Republican lawmaker who detailed potential wrongdoing -- including suspicions that the state showed the feds a misleading demonstration to keep money flowing.


That's probably not a development Oregon Democrats are too excited about. Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) oversaw the Cover Oregon Chernobyl and appears to have misled the public about the extent to which he was aware of its imminent, $300 million collapse. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D) merely voted for the unpopular law, falsely reassuring concerned citizens that they would be able to keep their preferred plans and doctors. Both Kitzhaber and Merkley could be beatable this November -- and Beaver State Republicans have a decent shot at retaking the Senate in Salem, too. Since we're on the subject of Democrats' 2013 "lie of the year," the Las Vegas Review-Journal is reporting that 90,000 small business employees in Harry Reid's state could be on the brink of receiving dreaded Obamacare cancellation letters this fall:


Local business owners might be hoping the Affordable Care Act’s insurance mandates cover sticker shock. The law’s employer coverage mandate doesn’t take effect until 2015, but early plan renewals are starting to roll in. And for some businesses, the premium jumps are positively painful. Local insurance brokers are reporting spikes ranging from 35 percent to 120 percent on policies that renew from July to December. The increases are especially acute among employers with workforces made up of younger, healthier men. That’s because Obamacare prohibits offering lower rates to healthier groups. It also narrows the allowed premium gap between older and younger enrollees. “It’s like if there were no more safe-driver discounts with State Farm,” said local insurance broker Frank Nolimal of Assurance Ltd. “Everybody has the same rate, whether you have three DUIs, or you’re a (nondrinking) churchgoing Mormon.” The changes put as many as 90,000 policies across Nevada at risk of cancellation or nonrenewal this fall, said Las Vegas insurance broker William Wright, president of Chamber Insurance and Benefits. That’s more than three times the 25,000 enrollees affected in October, when Obamacare-compliant plans first hit the market.


Who is in the crosshairs, and how are they likely to be affected?


Some workers are at higher risk than others of losing company-sponsored coverage. Professional, white-collar companies such as law or engineering firms will bite the bullet and renew at higher prices because they need to compete for scarce skilled labor, Nolimal said. But moderately skilled or low-skilled people making $8 to $14 an hour working for landscaping businesses, fire-prevention firms or fencing companies could lose work-based coverage because the plans cost so much relative to salaries. Employees who keep their coverage might see leaner take-home pay, which could hurt the economy. Nolimal said one business client whose monthly premiums will rise from $160 to $340 in June plans to shift most of the increase onto his employees.


Someone had better tell Gramps that the Koch brothers have somehow infiltrated his home state's largest newspaper. Meanwhile, the Obamacare "winning streak" continues in places like Jeanne Shaheen's New Hampshire and Mark Udall's Colorado -- and the American people are about as excited as you might expect. I'll leave you with conservative Senate candidate Joni Ernst giving Iowa voters a sense of how she feels about Obamacare:



She's a hog-castratin', heat-packin' mother and military veteran who's hoping to take on a trial lawyer Democrat who doesn't think much of farmers or Iowa's well-liked Republican Senator. Those optics seem...favorable, no? Fun fact about this race, via Allahpundit: "If Ernst pulls the upset, she’ll be the first woman ever elected to Congress — either chamber — from Iowa. Gonna be some highly nuanced “war on women” messaging from Democrats there this fall."


Guy Benson

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

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography