It's Working: Anthem Abandons Additional Markets in Nevada, Georgia

Posted: Aug 09, 2017 10:25 AM

Democrats celebrated when three Republican Senators derailed their party's multi-year "repeal and replace" push, but Obamacare's ongoing and systemic flaws continue to deteriorate -- leading to carriers pulling out of markets from coast to coast, and rates spiking.  Since 2013, average monthly premiums on the federal exchange have more than doubled, and the cost arrow continues to point upward.  The "Affordable" Care Act is not affordable for millions of Americans, and the care it purports to provide is not accessible.  The collapsing law is harming millions of people.  Just because one party rammed through a disastrous, shoddy government power grab -- and the other party has proven itself incapable of fixing it -- doesn't mean that we're going to stop highlighting its failures.  Tough luck, Nevadans and Georgians:

The exodus has begun. Anthem is pulling out of Nevada's Obamacare exchange for 2018 and cutting its presence in Georgia's marketplace roughly in half, the company announced Monday. Other insurers are also expected to downsize their involvement or to hike rates in coming weeks...Carriers have until August 16 to revise their premium requests and until September 27 to sign contracts for 2018. They have grown increasingly jittery over participating in Obamacare amid the uncertainty emanating from Washington D.C., particularly as President Trump's threatens to stop paying a key set of subsidies. The Affordable Care Act market remains too volatile for Anthem's liking, the company said. In particular, it is concerned about whether it will continue to receive the Obamacare subsidies that reduce out-of-pocket costs for lower-income consumers. Another factor is the return of a tax on health insurers that had been temporarily suspended.

No counties will be left without at least one other insurer. Anthem specifically notes that it is remaining in 85 mostly rural counties in Georgia where it is expected to be the sole carrier in 2018. Anthem, which provides Obamacare polices in 14 states this year, already announced it is withdrawing from Ohio, Indiana and Wisconsin, as well as much of California...Anthem's move follows Aetna's decision not to enter the Nevada market. Aetna had filed to participate in the Silver State, but opted not to go through with it. The carrier announced earlier this year it was pulling out of its four remaining states.

Republicans are blaming shrinking access and rising rates on Democrats' terrible law, which is an accurate charge. Democrats counter that Trump-caused "uncertainty" is contributing to the volatility, which also has some merit; the president has made threats and punted on key decisions while leaving the industry in the lurch. He should make up his mind and act, one way or the other. But it worth remembering that access and rate shock have been serious and deepening problems for years, dating back to when President Obama was routinely (and illegally) paying out un-appropriated bailout money to insurers. The problems continued even as Hillary Clinton was widely expected to win the presidential election. In other words, while Trump's action -- and inaction -- has fed the vortex of dysfunction, the Obamacare system was broken and crumbling even when the insurance industry could count on those cost-sharing 'stability' dollars flowing into their coffers. Because people are still hurting and the law's death spiral has been arrested, let alone reversed, something must be done. As I warned prior to the Senate's repeal votes, if Republicans botched their chance to reshape policy on their own terms, they'd have to enter bipartisan negotiations with Democrats -- guaranteeing that much more of the law would remain intact. And that's exactly what's happening:

Senate Republicans are expressing a willingness to consider a bipartisan approach to strengthening the individual insurance market under Obamacare, even as President Donald Trump is deciding whether to end payments for it...Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Saturday he’d be open to the attempt, which follows the collapse of Republican efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, according to the Associated Press. Republican Senator Thom Tillis said he’d be obligated to consider it...The Senate health committee will begin bipartisan hearings in early September on stabilizing and strengthening the Affordable Care Act’s individual insurance market, Republican Chairman Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and top Democrat Patty Murray of Washington said in a joint statement on Aug. 1. While saying he was open to a bipartisan plan for subsidies, McConnell also said on Saturday there was “still a chance” to address a repeal and replacement of Obamacare -- but that it was quickly becoming unlikely...

As I've said before, even in retreat, Republicans cannot agree to the blank check Chuck Schumer wants to "fix" Obamacare with more spending and bailouts. In exchange for funding the cost-sharing subsidies, Republicans must extract some real conservative reforms to the law.  Conservatives are likely to be quite dissatisfied with whatever emerges from these negotiations, as a cross-aisle package will be much less free market than anything the Republicans may have passed by themselves.  I'd be willing to bet that Obamacare's unsustainable Medicaid expansion will hardly get touched, if at all -- unless Democrats' Clinton-era reasonableness on the issue makes an unexpected return.  That seems highly unlikely, given the emerging battle on the Left over a single payer purity test: 

Sanders has decided the moment is right to launch his proposal for the single-payer health insurance system that helped form the backbone of his presidential message. And Democrats who don’t get behind it could find themselves on the wrong side of the most energetic wing of the party — as well as the once and possibly future presidential candidate who serves as its figurehead...With Sanders promising to play a major role in 2018 races, that’s led many party officials to worry about the prospect of his involvement in primaries that could upend the Democratic establishment’s plans to win crucial House, Senate and gubernatorial seats...“There’s a concern that [Sanders allied] people will try to make a stir,” said a senior Democratic aide working on a 2018 campaign. “You can’t just be a liberal Democrat in a lot of these states and be elected. [So] the question is how we improve the lives of people instead of playing these political games."

Will Democrats' left-wing base demand that in addition to abortion fanaticism, candidates must pledge math-challenged, unflinching support to a $32 trillion scheme that would nearly double the federal budget, requiring enormous tax increases on the middle and working classes, that would rip tens of millions away from employer-provided coverage, and that would result in worse outcomes and less innovation under a VA-style government regime?  This is the big "solution" of the very same people who created the Obamacare mess.