GOP Leaders: Let's Face It, Obamacare's Messy Status Quo is Indefensible

Posted: May 26, 2017 10:35 AM

Republicans are often criticized by conservatives for being incapable of driving a narrative, so when they're making an effort, they deserve credit. As the president continues his overseas trip -- which is going well enough that our media betters have been spending an inordinate amount of energy analyzing body language -- the Vice President and both Congressional Republican leaders are doing what they can to get the press to cover this story, which we highlighted yesterday. Obamacare's primary stated purpose was to lower costs. It has, in fact, doubled average costs for consumers purchasing their coverage through the federal "Affordable" Care Act exchange since 2013. An epic failure. Millions of real people are being actively harmed by this law on an ongoing basis, and the law's sustainability is coming unglued. One of the most audacious analytical claims in the new Congressional Budget Office report is that Obamacare is in pretty stable shape in most places, whereas the American Health Care Act would be destabilizing. The former claim is patently false, and the latter is dubious, as others have noted:

Families choosing a plan through the exchanges have seen their premiums more than double since 2013. In some states, a wave of insurers leaving the exchange market has created situations where only one insurer is offering products for entire states. Alabama and Alaska, which have seen the two highest cumulative premium increases, are both down to only one insurer. In the entire country, only Virginia saw the number of participating insurers increase from 2016 to 2017. Just today, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City announced it would be exiting the exchange, leaving 25 counties in Missouri without a participating insurer for now. The lack of choices and competition in a growing number of places makes it unlikely that there will be an end to rapid premium growth, absent reform.

CBO predicts that the ACHA would reduce premiums for young, healthy consumers considerably, which would go a long way to bringing more of them into the fold -- which is precisely what the struggling individual market desperately needs.  With that backdrop, here are the Republican leaders of the House and Senate hammering away on HHS' highly inconvenient data that blows up the core premise of the Democrats' mess of a law:

"The Obamacare status quo is unsustainable, it’s indefensible, and we have to move beyond it before more Americans get hurt.”

They're right, of course, but a new Fox News poll helps illustrate the political challenges ahead. Only 40 percent of respondents favor the GOP plan, with a bare majority now saying that Obamacare has been a net positive overall. This is status quo bias at work, aided by baseless demagoguery about the fictional consequences of the AHCA seeping into the public's conception of the House-passed plan. The real test of whether the law is working is determining if costs are up or down, and if the law's winners outnumber its losers. On both metrics, Obamacare is failing. The new HHS study makes that case in black and white, and when the 2018 edition of these projections come in, the unraveling picture will come into even clearer focus. I'll leave you with this interesting catch by conservative policy expert and activist Phil Kerpen:

This seems like a good time to re-up my bottom line view of the utility of CBO on these questions -- as well as a reminder that no, a fully government-run scheme is not the "solution," unless you want much higher taxes, much less innovation, long wait times, and worse outcomes:

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