Obamacare has hit a lull. The president's signature domestic policy program isn't causing quite as much chaos right now in people's lives as it did last October and November during the incompetent launch of healthcare.gov. The absence of an immediate crisis has prompted smug suggestions from the usual suspects in government, on campus and in the news media to declare that the law is working and people like it.
Obamacare is working only in the unlikely event that its goal is to deliver the Senate to Republicans this fall. Disapproval of Obamacare hit an all-time high last month, in part because premiums keep rising. PriceWaterhouseCoopers finds that the average insurance premium in the Obamacare exchanges will rise by 8 percent this year.
|Obamacare is working only in the unlikely event that its goal is to deliver the Senate to Republicans this fall.|
The White House repeatedly notes that premiums also rose before the Affordable Care Act became law. This is true but, as the Washington Examiner's Philip Klein pointed out last week, Obama's promise before the law was passed was not that premiums would continue to skyrocket as they had before, but that that the average family of four would be saved $2,500 per year. Mention that $2,500 these days and you will see Obama's cheerleaders shuffling silently from foot to foot while looking distractedly into the middle distance.
For the second straight year, many people are seeing their premiums rise much faster than they did before Obamacare. This is because of its requirements that all plans cover services that in many states used to be optional. Residents of at least 11 of the 31 states reporting new proposed rates will see rate hikes above 10 percent. Some customers in Louisiana will suffer the gut punch of a 26 percent increase, and some in Arkansas will be hit with a stunning 50 percent surge. Obamacare's apologists sneer that opponents will always be able to find isolated horror stories to make the ACA marvel look bad. Both Louisiana and Arkansas host critical Senate races this year featuring vulnerable Democratic incumbents who voted for Obamacare. Let's see how isolated voters' objections really are to the president's expensive broken promises.
Premium increases would be larger still if insurers had not adjusted for Obamacare by reducing their coverage via higher deductibles and narrower provider networks. This has been a problem almost everywhere, but especially in New Hampshire, where another potentially crucial Senate race is developing.
Meanwhile, several provisions of Obamacare, even those with which there was little concern before, have proven unworkable. Even the medical device tax, which seems a simple matter in principle, is creating problems. The federal government has collected only 75 percent of what it expected from this tax, and as of last month, the IRS couldn't even figure out who was supposed to be paying it.
So, even though Obamacare is not exploding into a thousand pieces at this moment, it has saddled millions of people with higher costs and inferior coverage. It offers precious little of benefit to the middle class — those people whom Democrats keep saying they work for, and whom will march angrily to polling stations in November.