Why is a partisan California Democrat making a 'statement against interest' by sounding the alarm over soaring Obamacare premiums? In order to arrogate more price-control power for himself, of course. He wants voters to approve a ballot measure that would hand the government -- and him, specifically -- the power to reject proposed rate increases deemed to be 'excessive.' Insurers oppose the measure, which they (understandably) argue would not solve the problem of higher costs -- not to mention the significant risk of providers pulling out of the market. Nevertheless, state health commissioner Dave Jones' statistics paint a picture of steep 2014 premium hikes in California. Obamacare at work:
The cost of health insurance for individuals skyrocketed this year in California, with some paying almost twice what they did last year, the state's insurance commissioner said...For 2014, consumers purchasing individual policies paid between 22% and 88% more for health insurance than they did last year, depending on age, gender, type of policy and where they lived, Jones said Tuesday. He said he has authorized a study of health insurance rates after receiving numerous complaints about rising costs. "The rate increase from 2013 to 2014, on average, was significantly higher than rate increases in the past," Jones said in a news conference in Sacramento. The hardest-hit were young people, he said. In one region of Los Angeles County, people age 25 paid 52% more for a silver plan than they had for a similar plan the year before, while someone age 55 paid 38% more, according to a report that Jones released Tuesday.
Jones cautions that the 2015 rate bumps will likely be artificially "modest," as insurance companies try to avoid a backlash at the ballot box. Keep in mind that those relatively less painful increases will come on top of 2014's "significantly higher" than usual spikes, caused by Obamacare's costly mandates. Another reason behind the hikes are the law's problematic risk pools, which are sicker and older (and therefore more expensive to cover) than the administration projected. Aetna's CEO spelled this out on CNBC, calling the demographics "worse than we expected:"
He also says that his company is experiencing "some attrition" when it comes to premium payments, meaning that some percentage of enrollees' coverage is lapsing. We've discussed premium non-payment among Obamacare's sign-ups over many months, so that isn't new. But Bertolini isn't talking about people who selected coverage but never initiated it by paying an initial premium; he's talking about people who began by paying premiums, then dropped off. One of the CNBC anchors speculates that young, healthy people have the strongest incentive to kick their plans to the curb. Let's see how this fluidity and instability impacts 2016 premiums. Bertolini also reminds viewers that the "back end operating system of the exchanges is not yet up and running." Recent reports suggest that task isn't even close to completion. Down in Louisiana, the bad news continues to roll in:
The state's largest insurer says close to 45,000 Louisiana policyholders could see the rates for their health coverage jump anywhere from 10 percent to nearly 20 percent next year, and the Affordable Care Act is a major reason. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana accounts for the bulk of those individual policies, which people buy directly from an insurance company rather than through their employer. Blue Cross spokesman John Maginnis said the Affordable Care Act expanded access to health insurance to millions of Americans, regardless of age or health status, and guaranteed richer benefits. He says those things come at a cost.
Of course they do, but that's not what the president and his Congressional foot soldiers told the American people. They claimed that Obamacare would lower everybody's rates, with reductions saving the average family $2,500. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), who cast the deciding vote for Obamacare, slammed conservatives' predictions of higher costs as "a pathetic lie" during the pre-passage debate. Now tens of thousands of her constituents are experiencing that "lie" first hand. The nationwide "summer drumbeat" isn't slowing down. Florida: "State insurance officials are preparing to release figures next week on how much health plans will cost under the Affordable Care Act for 2015, and rate increases seem inevitable as insurers say their new consumers are older and sicker than anticipated. Top executives at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida and Cigna said rate increases are likely, but declined specifics." I'll leave you with a link to Peter Suderman's definitive piece on the wonky Halbig controversy that's been raging for days. We covered the court decision when it broke last week, as well as the humiliating evidence subsequently unearthed against one of Obamacare's most prominent defenders and architects. The Left has been working like mad to recover from this embarrassment, but some of their flailing has inadvertently weakened their case.
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography