Sticker Shock Will Make the Website Woes Look Like Small Potatoes

by Jim Geraghty

At Wednesday night’s gathering in Boston, an NR reader asked if liberal writers, thinkers, columnists, and bloggers were treating their counterparts on the right with a little more deference or respect, in light of Obamacare’s debut living up to conservatives’ fears instead of liberals’ hopes. The short answer is, “No, not really.” Kevin Williamson observed that if a liberal acknowledges that health care is too complicated for the government to manage and direct, that concession cracks the foundation of his entire worldview and faith in government’s ability to solve problems.

I noted that on Twitter and elsewhere, there were plenty of liberals insisting, “Hey, the web site is going to be fixed at the end of November, okay! They said it’s going to be fixed! THAT MEANS IT’S GOING TO WORK SOON, OKAY? IT’S ALL GOING TO TURN OUT OKAY! EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE FINE!” 

Right now, the faulty Obamacare website is a locked door that Obama, Kathleen Sebelius, and their team are desperately trying to unlock, as all of their fans and supporters watch intensely, knowing that eventually, the door will open.

What they don’t know is that on the other side of the door is a giant monster called “sticker shock.”

Some Americans are already getting a glimpse of the monster:

Sweeping differences in health care exchange pricing among states and counties is leading to sticker shock for some middle-class consumers and others who aren’t eligible for subsidies under the Affordable Care Act.

The average prices for the most popular plans are twice as high in the most expensive states as those with the lowest average prices, according to a USA TODAY analysis of data for 34 states using the federal health insurance exchange . . . 

About 4.4 million people in the individual insurance market are not eligible for the subsidies and tax credits that can help cover premiums and out-of-pocket costs, including deductibles.

Insurance brokers and “navigators” helping people apply for insurance say there are shockingly high prices for some consumers who aren’t eligible for subsidies. Without much competition in some states and because they know so little about their new customers, insurers may have priced higher than they would have otherwise.

And not even Democratic congressional staffers are immune:

“In a shock to the system, the older staff in my office (folks over 59) have now found out their personal health insurance costs (even with the government contribution) have gone up three to four times what they were paying before,” Minh Ta, chief of staff to Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), wrote to fellow Democratic chiefs of staff in an email message.

The focus on the website problems in the past few weeks is sort of a blessing and a curse for the administration. It’s a blessing because it obscures the other brewing problems with the new law. The curse is that most supporters of Obamacare are whistling past the graveyard, insisting it’s mostly a website issue, when in fact other bigger problems will eventually command the spotlight in the months ahead.