The Washington Examiner's Philip Klein penned a prescient column in February, arguing that Obamacare was "off to a rocky" start in 2016. In the piece, he noted that potential political pain for Democrats would start to make headlines and land in consumers' mailboxes around...well, right about now: "For months leading up to the election, voters are going to be hearing more and more about staggering rate increases coming in 2017. And this year, open enrollment – when individuals shopping for insurance can start to go online and see the premiums on new plans -- begins on Nov. 1, or just one week before the election. This means that for the months, weeks, and days leading up to the election, the Democratic presidential nominee and all of the party's Congressional candidates are going to have to contend with news of sky-rocking rates coming from Obamacare as insurers struggle to make the business profitable," he wrote. And that is exactly how things are playing out. USA Today is out with new reporting confirming that Obamacare rate spikes are being approved by regulators across the country -- some even green-lighting increases above and beyond what insurers requested:
State insurance regulators across the country have approved health care premium increases higher than those requested by insurers, despite a national effort to keep rates for policies sold on Affordable Care Act exchanges from skyrocketing, a USA TODAY analysis shows. In eight states, regulators approved premiums that were a percentage point or more higher than carriers wanted, said Charles Gaba, a health data expert at ACASignups.net who analyzed the rates for USA TODAY. As of Tuesday, those states are Arizona, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Minnesota and Utah...“To consumers, this seems terrible like, ‘Oh, they’re price gouging us,’ ” Gaba said. “But part of regulators’ jobs is to keep insurance companies solvent so they can continue to give people insurance.” In fact, this year many insurance carriers have requested premium rate increases that are closer to what regulators think are appropriate, says Gaba. “Ideally you want what’s requested to be what’s necessary,” he added. “And that was part of what happened.” Insurer withdrawals from some markets and rate hikes of more than 50% in some areas prompted fears that some insurance marketplaces were at risk of collapsing.
'They're just doing what's necessary to keep these companies afloat' is the whole problem. The reason that so many major insurers are pulling out of Obamacare is that the disproportionately sicker risk pools are quite expensive to cover, resulting in huge financial losses to the providers. To offset those losses, enormous rate increases are being approved, making coverage even less affordable for the relatively healthy consumers trying to keep their heads above water -- including millions who receive taxpayer subsidies through the law. As their costs skyrocket even further, more and more younger, healthier people will either walk away from the law, or continue to avoid signing up for it. After all, paying the individual mandate tax is much cheaper than shelling out big bucks every month, on top of out-of-pocket costs; plus, in the event of a health emergency, insurers are required under the law to accept all comers during open enrollment, regardless of pre-existing conditions. This is the unsustainable, spiraling trajectory that has industry experts warning of a potential full collapse. By the way, here is the article's accompanying infographic, illustrating the prevalence of double-digit premium increases. As you peruse this map, recall that the tent pole promise of Obamacare was that it would significantly reduce costs for virtually all American consumers. Instead, here is the "Affordable" Care Act reality:
Based on that chart, only a small handful of states will have the supposed 'good fortune' of experiencing single-digit hikes. The vast majority will experience cost surges in the double-digits, with roughly half of all states getting slammed with increases of at least 20 percent. Time magazine reviews the eight states where consumes will suffer the most next year, where regulators have imposed rate jumps of at least 30 percent. The piece's opening sentence says it all: "The Affordable Care Act is getting a lot less affordable for many Americans." Meanwhile, many Arizonans find themselves in Obamacare's crosshairs, getting rocked by the double-whammy of soaring costs and dwindling-to-nonexistent choices:
Arizonans will have fewer options at higher rates when they buy coverage for 2017 on the federal health insurance exchange. This week, the Arizona Department of Insurance released details about the plans and rates being offered on the marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act. Maricopa County will only have one insurer on the exchange, Health Net, which is offering four plans and raising rates by nearly 75 percent. “It’s definitely on the high side. There's no question about that, but Arizona is not the only one with significant, more than 50 percent increases," insurance analyst Jim Hammond, publisher of the Hertel Report, said...In the rest of Arizona’s counties, except for Pima, Blue Cross and Blue Shield will be the only insurer. Those rates are going up 51 percent. Other insurers will be offering plans off the exchange this year, but most are also raising rates by about 70 percent. Open enrollment begins Nov. 1.
Arizona's Democratic Senate candidate calls her vote in favor of Obamacare one of her proudest moments. She's getting smoked. Republicans should press this issue down the home stretch of the campaign. As we mentioned yesterday, Americans for Prosperity is rolling out an ad campaign in key Senate races to help hold Democrats accountable for their failing law:
Beyond the millions who saw their existing coverage snatched away because of Obamacare in 2013 -- in violation of a major Obama pledge -- market disruptions have led to more than one million additional cancellations this year. Those affected will have to wade back into marketplaces and contend with the bruising premium spikes laid bare on the map above. It's little wonder, therefore, that some projections predict that the law's already-downgraded enrollment figures may plateau or even decline moving forward. Obamacare is unpopular with the American people, and has consistently harmed more families than it's helped. Hillary Clinton first proposed Obamacare during the 2008 campaign.