It's Failing: Rare Surviving Obamacare Co-Op Hiking Premiums By Up to 40 Percent

Posted: Feb 14, 2017 10:20 AM

This is one of the precious few Obamacare co-ops still in existence, mind you, as the large majority of them have imploded under their own weight -- despite billions of dollars in taxpayer funding under the law. And as we've seen across the country, year after year, and across a wide variety of coverage platforms, premiums are heading up for New Mexicans who receive their coverage through this co-op. Those increases will range from high single digits to 40 percent spikes in 2018. Via the Free Beacon and Kaiser Health News:

One of the co-ops created through the Affordable Care Act will see premiums rise as much as 40 percent, Kaiser Health News reported. Martin Hickey, the CEO of New Mexico Health Connections, said that premiums for their plans may rise as little as 7 percent or soar as much as 40 percent. Hickey said that there has been massive confusion regarding what will happen to the Affordable Care Act with the new administration and Congress. "The more uncertainty they create, the higher the rates" will be for 2018, he said. "Insurers have a hard enough time making the normal predictions of who will get sick and how much it will cost," the article states.

As the article states, only five (or four, depending on the reporting) of the 23 co-ops originally erected under the failing health law remain operational. These programs have proven unsustainable, and now New Mexico's is going to get much more expensive for participants. The co-op's CEO partially blames the uncertainty of Obamacare's future as a factor driving up costs (which is understandable), but it's important to remember that Obamacare's financial house of cards had been collapsing for years prior to the prospect of repeal becoming much more realistic following the election of Donald Trump. Indeed, in the weeks prior to the election -- when the overwhelming conventional wisdom held that Clinton would win -- the Obama administration's own numbers spelled out the law's undeniable failures. This piece of news out of New Mexico is totally in line with the overall status quo trajectory, not a departure from it.  Republicans must be ready to prosecute that case in a detailed and compassionate way as pressure from Democrats and the media ramps up.  Tentative, under-informed performances at town hall meetings will do them no favors, especially if those meetings are stacked with repeal opponents and sympathetic journalists.  Part of this process requires an actual consensus replacement plan, of course, which we've been promised for years (multiple GOP plans have been presented and even filed as legislation, just not as "the" unified proposal).  If Republican members want to emulate the successful example of a colleague on this, they should pay attention to the approach Michigan's Justin Amash has taken:

It had all the makings of the anti-Trump town hall meetings Republicans have come to fear. Retired health care industry worker Paul Bonis stood up and implored Republican Rep. Justin Amash to commit to keeping Obamacare — his life, the 61-year-old cancer survivor said, might actually depend on it. But Amash refused, and the auditorium packed with some 600 mostly liberal constituents erupted in boos and jeers for a good 30 seconds. “You are not supporting your constituents!” yelled one person. Instead of getting defensive or ducking for cover, though, the 36-year-old Michigan lawmaker leaned in, coolly explaining his position on the health care law. He made a point of trying to connect with the overwhelmingly Democratic room, jabbing President Donald Trump for what he called racially insensitive remarks and overreaching policies. Amash seemed to enjoy the give-and-take so much that he stayed 40 minutes longer than scheduled and promised to book an even bigger venue next time...“Most of my colleagues, unfortunately, go with the flow; they want to stick to their comfort zones in many cases,” Amash told POLITICO in a brief interview after the event. “This doesn’t make me uncomfortable. I like to be here, hearing the different perspectives. I’m not afraid of my positions.”

Part of Amash's strategy can't be replicated in every GOP-held district, given the Congressman's libertarian leanings and frequent Trump criticism. But on Obamacare, Amash understands the issue, makes factual appeals, and knows what his policy alternative entails. Rather than retreating into a crouch, Amash is able to spar, push back, and even go on courteous offense. It's that sort of preparation and confidence that other Congressmen would be wise to embrace. It's probably worth pointing out that Amash may be uniquely practiced in such things, as he makes a point defends every vote he takes in Facebook posts explaining his rationales and their constitutional grounds.  Once a Trump/Ryan Obamacare alternative takes shape and is introduced (Speaker Ryan says the process will occur this year), the broad strokes of a Republican messaging strategy will need to fall into place:

Democrats used false promises to jam through an unpopular and failing program on a party line vote. (2) The law is harming more people than it's helping, and obviously violating Democrats' pledges.  (3) If we do nothing, the current situation will get worse -- both on costs and on access to care. (4) Republicans' alternative helps provide affordable care without a raft of coercive mandates, and it helps protect people with pre-existing conditions. (5) Democrats have no plan other than more government spending and more government control; in other words, doubling down on their own failure.  They can't be trusted on this issue because they blew their credibility on Obamacare. Making this case shouldn't be terribly hard if -- and only if -- the GOP can get on the same page on the details of "repeal and replace," present a united front, and explain their plans in a proactive and positive manner.  That's far easier said than done, but accomplishing something like uprooting a bad program that's been embedding itself into the American healthcare system for several years isn't a layup.  Republicans should study and internalize the Amash approach on this subject, then honor the Boy Scouts' motto and be prepared.