What do you do when the healthcare law you passed — the one that probably cost your party its majorities in Congress and helped expel it from the White House as well — continues its slide, with insurer drop-outs and 50 percent premium hikes in some places? You go on offense, blaming the people who opposed your all-encompassing, 3,000-page law for its continued failure.
Double-digit premium hikes? Again? After last year's 25 percent average increase? It can't be because of the regulatory framework we created. It has to be the result of a repeal bill that had no chance of becoming law last year and hasn't even become law yet this year.
The mere threat that Obamacare will be dismantled or radically changed — either by Congress or by President Trump himself — has persuaded several big insurance companies to stop selling policies or significantly raise premiums. The practical effect is that some lower-income and middle-class families may have no good options for insurance and will have to spend more on health care.
This is just an assertion, of course, and it's not an accurate one. The Times editors even go so far as to claim that "On the whole, insurance markets in much of the country are on stable footing and will remain so if Congress doesn't do things to undermine Obamacare."
In reality, most insurers (with one large exception) have been losing tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars a year in the exchanges. Uncertainty wasn't the issue then, and it isn't the main issue now. The reason they're leaving the exchanges, if you take their word for it, is that they expect to keep losing tons of money. And it isn't just because they're greedy, either. The nonprofit co-op insurers in the various states had the same experience as the for-profits, which is why 20 out of the original 24 have gone belly-up.
See this headline? How about this one? There are dozens of others like them from way back before anyone thought Trump had even the slightest chance of becoming president. At the marcoscopic level, at least, effect cannot precede cause. The often-misuderstood rules of causality hold true here. You can't blame something that was already happening in 2015 and 2016 on something that happened later, in 2017.
What we have here is a law that's not working well. Hence the pre-emptive excuse-making for why next year there will be even more counties where there is either just one or even zero insurers selling policies on the Obamacare exchanges.
Excuse-making is especially easy when when there's a chance that Obamacare will be radically overhauled or eliminated, at which point we can blame its repeal for whatever other new and unexpected problems crop up.