August 4, 2015

OBAMACARE PREMIUMS SOAR: In response, the Obama Administration once again sticks its fingers in its ears and pretends to hear no evil. As revealed in this New York Times piece, “Obama Administration urges States to cut health insurers’ requests for big premium increases.

After finding that new customers were sicker than expected, some health plans have sought increases of 10 percent to 40 percent or more. . . .

Kevin J. Counihan, the chief executive of the federal insurance marketplace, is urging states to consider a range of factors before making their decisions.

“Recent claims data show healthier consumers,” Mr. Counihan said in a letter to state insurance commissioners. The federal tax penalty for going without insurance will increase in 2016, he said, and this “should motivate a new segment of uninsured who may not have a high need for health care to enroll for coverage.”

In addition, federal officials said, much of the pent-up demand for health care has been met because consumers who enrolled last year have received treatments they could not obtain when they were uninsured. . . .

But Scott Keefer, a vice president of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, which requested rate increases averaging about 50 percent for 2016, said his company had not seen an improvement in the health status of new customers.

“Our claims experience has not slowed at all,” Mr. Keefer said. “The trend has gotten a little worse than we expected.” . . .

President Obama, on a recent trip to Tennessee, said the final rates for 2016 would “come in significantly lower than what’s being requested.”

Moreover, consumers can avoid large rate increases by switching to lower-cost health plans next year, administration officials said. In any event, they said, the federal government pays most of the premium for most people who buy insurance on the exchanges, so consumers will be largely shielded from higher premiums.

The politics of Obamacare work so well for the Democrats who supported it precisely because Obamacare beneficiaries are shielded from premium increases. They continue to get their “free stuff”–or heavily subsidized stuff–and any increases they experience are blamed on “greedy insurers.” I predict more and more insurers will become insolvent, and concomitantly fewer and fewer choices will become available on the exchanges. After another decade or so–if Congress can’t muster the political willpower to repeal–there will be calls for amendments that will further subsidize the few, but large, insurance companies that remain to serve this population, likely through the mechanism of taxpayer-funded reinsurance. They will be “too big to fail.”

If you like Obamacare’s vision of government-run “competition,” you’re really going to love the Clean Power Plan, which will do for the energy sector (beginning with coal-fired electricity) what Obamacare has done for the health care sector–i.e., slowly asphyxiate it, leaving only large, heavily-taxpayer subsidized “private” crony-companies.  Hold onto your wallets and start hoarding bright lightbulbs, because prices are going to go up dramatically, and choices will decline. 

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