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The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

Just Higher Premiums and Higher Costs to Taxpayers, That’s All!



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Good morning! New Jersey governor Chris Christie delivers his State of the State address today, which means it will be treated by the national media as the MOST IMPORTANT STATE OF THE STATE ADDRESS EVER. In other news in today’s Morning Jolt . . . 

The New Spin: No Death Spiral, Just Higher Premiums and Higher Costs to Taxpayers!

So . . . the folks who have signed up for Obamacare are mostly old and sick. Megan McArdle spotlights a terrific statistic: “62 percent of the people eligible for subsidies selected a plan, but only 8.5 percent of those who weren’t eligible for subsidies actually purchased one.” Man, sure is easier to hit “purchase” when Uncle Sam is covering part of the bill, huh?

But we’re being told it’s NOT a formula for the death spiral. Just higher premiums next year.

But even if the age mix remains tilted toward older adults, “it’s nothing of the sort that would trigger instability in the system,” said Larry Levitt, an insurance expert with the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. Premiums would go up next year for the overhaul, along with taxpayer costs per enrollee, but not enough to push the system into a “death spiral” in which rising premiums discourage healthy people from signing up.

Oh, just higher premiums and higher costs to taxpayers, that’s all! Avik Roy, what does that mean?

. . . the bottom line is that insurers will still lose money on these plans. And there are other aspects of adverse selection. For example: are we seeing sicker participants within a given age group, regardless of age? Are the healthy people in the exchanges skewing towards high-deductible bronze plans, while sicker people buy more generous silver and gold plans?

Taxpayers will be on the hook for any increased costs. Most importantly, many Americans will choose to go without insurance because it’s even less affordable than it was before.

So, this giant legislative monstrosity that was passed to reduce the number of uninsured is steadily increasing the number of uninsured. We would have been better off doing nothing.

Are you ready for a massive wave of staff turnover on Capitol Hill?

A survey of senior managers in Congress indicates that cuts in congressional office budgets and transitioning staff to a new healthcare benefit structure could lead to a significant number of staff departures. Also, nearly four in ten senior staff said they plan to look for a job in the next 12 months, according to research conducted by the Congressional Management Foundation.

Senior managers also reported staff concerns about the transition to healthcare exchanges: 91% reported their staff was “worried about possible changes in health benefits” 87% reported their staff was “worried about the cost of health insurance” 82% reported their staff was “worried about the ability to access local health care providers.”

You know Obamacare is bad when it can persuade public-sector employees to look at their options in the dog-eat-dog, no-guarantees private sector.

Finally, USA Today’s editorial board practically begs the Obama administration to get out of its legal fight with the Little Sisters of the Poor, as the government tend to look like a bunch of jerks when they take a bunch of nuns to court, demanding the nuns pay for birth control:

Federal law has several constitutionally vetted religious exemptions. The administration should adopt the most expansive, such as the one that exempts employers who share “religious bonds and convictions with a church.” One of Obama’s most prominent Catholic supporters, John Jenkins, president of Notre Dame, urged the administration to do just that in 2011 when it was formulating its policy.

If the president offered a more meaningful compromise, other religious leaders would have a hard time saying no. The public health impact would be minimal. And religious freedom would be granted the wide berth it deserves.

The folks on the USA Today editorial board are fine folks, but their argument presumes the Obama administration sees a value in the way the Little Sisters of the Poor and the Catholic Church as a whole practice their religious freedom. The Obama team’s decision to have this fight is pretty revealing, isn’t it?


Tags: Obamacare , Death Spiral , Insurance Companies , Little Sisters of the Poor


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