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Major Insurer CEO's Brutal Obamacare Assessment: "It is in a Death Spiral"

Is this statement significant? Oh, you bet it is. Republicans sometimes leave much to be desired with their coordination and messaging (with exceptions, of course), but it's quite helpful politically when reality intervenes and does your messaging for you. We noted yesterday that health insurance giant Humana has surveyed Obamacare's dreadful enrollment landscape and unsustainable risk pools, and has decided to withdraw entirely from its participation in the law -- going a step or two further than a number of top competitors. Other major providers have followed suit by pulling out of some, or most, marketplaces. When conservatives say "the law is failing," that's not a mere talking point, or even an opinion at this point. It is a statement of fact. And nobody is making that clearer than the CEO of Aetna, whose remarkably blunt and stark assessment caught President Trump's attention this morning:


When you click through to the link, you read Mark Bertolini declining to mince words and making some dire but credible predictions that reflect other experts' views:

Aetna Inc. Chief Executive Officer Mark Bertolini escalated his criticism of the Affordable Care Act, saying Obamacare’s markets are nearing failure as premiums climb and healthier individuals drop out. “It is in a death spiral,” Bertolini said in a video interview with the Wall Street Journal that aired Wednesday on the newspaper’s website. He predicted that more insurers will drop out of the market for 2018, following Humana Inc.’s decision to quit Obamacare entirely for next year. Aetna, too, is mulling whether to further reduce its presence in the markets set up by the ACA. The company cut its footprint to four states for this year, from 15, after losing about $450 million on sales of ACA plans last year. Bertolini has been saying for months that the ACA’s markets are deteriorating. In October, he said that rising rates would push healthy people away from Obamacare, leaving insurers with sicker customers, and forcing premiums even higher. The increasing burden of medical costs as fewer and fewer healthy customers enroll are among the conditions that create an insurance death spiral.

In regards to that last bolded sentence, Bertolini's October prediction has already been vindicated by the Obama administration's own numbers, as well as Humana's new determination to cut its losses and sever ties. It's also not especially difficult to read between the lines and conclude that Aetna is also headed for the exits. These executives are seeing the cut-and-dried numbers and recognizing that despite Obamacare's coercive mandates and massive subsidies, far too many young and healthy people are concluding that they simply cannot afford the supposedly "affordable" coverage it offers. That fiscal house of cards cannot stand much longer, and the law's endemic problems get compounded each year as more people do their own math and realize that they're losing out, too.  Obamacare's failures cry out for a significant "repeal and replace" correction; the data and disastrous trend lines prove that there's no other politically-viable alternative.  Every day that the current regime continues to crumble is another day that real people are getting hurt.  We've discussed the pressing need for Republicans to present a unified front in favor of a specific replacement package to roll out alongside repeal.  We are still awaiting finalized details and a timetable on that crucial front.  The good news is that the public is heavily in favor of replacing Obamacare with something better, and they're positively disposed towards the broad elements of the plan put forth by House Speaker Paul Ryan:


Crucially, the biggest components of a likely Republican plan are supported by large bipartisan majorities of voters. A clear majority wants total repeal or major changes to the law, as opposed to a minority that wants only minor or no changes. When Ryan's repeal and replace proposal is described in some detail, support rises to 63 percent, while roughly six in ten voters reject Democrats' dumb slogan that Obamacare repeal would "make America sick again." There's also a note of caution in the data for those Republicans who are advocating repeal without a replacement, or who believe that maintaining any single element of Obamacare is unacceptable. Enormous majorities say that the new system must protect people with pre-existing conditions (92 percent) and keep the "26 year old" provision (79 percent). I'll leave you with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell slamming Obamacare's continued failures in a floor speech this morning:

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