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The New York Times’ Fox Butterfield is famous for repeatedly reporting with astonishment that crime rates went down as the prison population went up without giving much heed to the possibility that the two trends might be correlated rather than (as the paper’s house ideology insists) contradictory. Here’s a good instance.

Well, he now seems to have some competition in the “incredulous about cause and effect” department at the Times. In today’s paper, Times business reporter Reed Abelson notes with barely masked bewilderment that insurance premiums are rising sharply as Obamacare’s insurance regulations begin to take effect. The opening paragraph is just perfect:

Health insurance companies across the country are seeking and winning double-digit increases in premiums for some customers, even though one of the biggest objectives of the Obama administration’s health care law was to stem the rapid rise in insurance costs for consumers.
Huh, how did that happen? What a very strange coincidence. The article mentions in passing that some people think this might have something to do with Obamacare’s basically outlawing actual insurance and replacing it with an economically incoherent substitute, but since that obviously can’t be the reason it doesn’t get much attention.  More prominent is the reassuring assertion that things would have been worse if not for Obamacare, as “policy experts say the law has probably kept at least some rates lower than they otherwise would have been.” Probably at least some, yes, that’s good to hear. The article also notes with surprise that businesses that now have to have their prices approved by regulators have adopted a peculiar practice by which they first propose higher prices than they expect to end up with and then work down toward their costs. Also, sources say that supply and demand may be related in ways that influence prices, but this remains unconfirmed.
 
I have a feeling Abelson is going to have a very surprising year.


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