In the last two weeks, we've watched the spectacle of Obamacare's main author, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., call the law's implementation a "train wreck" just before he dashed for the exits by announcing his retirement from the Senate. A few days later, the country was outraged to learn that members of Congress were holding confidential talks to exempt themselves and their staffs from provisions of the law. Senate Democrats also made clear at the White House this week that they're worried about Obamacare's potential to wreck their chances in the 2014 congressional elections.
Marylanders got a glimpse Wednesday of what exactly all those lawmakers were so worried about: CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, the state's largest insurer, made a request to the Maryland Insurance Administration for approval to raise premium rates by an average of 25 percent for individual coverage. That's about three times the average rate increase for the state. The reason? CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield claims the higher premiums are required to cover rising costs under Obamacare, which, let it be recalled, is officially titled -- without irony -- the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Bear in mind that for young Marylanders, the rate increase could be as high as a staggering 150 percent. And, no, that's not a typo. For small businesses, the hikes are projected to be about 15 percent -- not as bad as for 20-somethings but still tough on one of the economy's main engines of job creation.
Why the increase? Because Obamacare forces insurance companies to take customers regardless of their pre-existing conditions. This was one of the law's most popular and widely touted provisions. And, frankly, who doesn't hate the term "pre-existing condition"? But the practical reality is that this is going to make insurance that much more expensive. Unable to refuse sicker people, the companies will have to charge more to recoup those costs. That's why the rates will soar, for the young and healthy in particular -- they'll be picking up the slack.
"We have always supported the intent and goal of the Affordable Care Act, but this is the practical result of it opening the pool to everybody," the insurer's CEO, Chet Burrell, told the Baltimore Sun. Maryland sets its rates, and the insurance administration has not yet said what it will do. Simply denying the increase -- which will undoubtedly be a popular cause -- won't solve the problem. Insurance companies will simply cut costs elsewhere, most likely in quality of care.
This was entirely predictable. When they were marshaling momentum for health care reform a decade ago, Democrats became hung up on the number of uninsured individuals there were allegedly, versus addressing why costs were rising in the first place. Hillary Clinton's main argument against Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries was that his plan didn't cover absolutely everyone. Once in office, Obama bowed to liberal pressure to do just that.
Now, with Obamacare on the books and headed for that train wreck, Democrats may finally have created a situation for themselves in which they will learn once and for all that they cannot repeal the laws of cause and effect or supply and demand.