Given the importance of understanding how Obamacare impacts the cost of health insurance — especially for the people who struggle to afford it today — I and two Manhattan Institute colleagues, Yevgeniy Feyman and Paul Howard, have produced an interactive map where you can look up information on Obamacare premiums and subsidies on a state-by-state basis.
I’ve written up our initial findings over at my Forbes blog. We only have publicly available premium data for 13 states plus D.C. at this time, a remarkable thing in and of itself, given that the exchanges are supposed to go online in less than four weeks.
The bottom line is that, for the mostly blue states we’ve been able to analyze, insurance rates will go up by an average of 24 percent. But there is wide variation among the states:
Nine of the states will see increases on average, and five will see decreases on average. New Mexico, Vermont, South Dakota, and Connecticut will see the steepest rate hikes: on average, 130, 97, 83, and 59 percent, respectively. Four states will see meaningful declines in rates: Maine (71 percent), Colorado (34 percent), Ohio (30 percent), and New York (27 percent).
A number of blue states have heavily-regulated individual insurance markets that, in the recent past, have driven healthy people out of the market. Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, and Washington have all experimented with Obamacare-like regulations, such as community rating (forcing young people to subsidize the old) and guaranteed issue (requiring insurers to offer plans regardless of pre-existing conditions).
In the September 2 issue of National Review, I have an article noting that Obamacare’s impact on health insurance premiums is its Achilles’ heel:
In June, a survey from the Morning Consult, a company focused on health-care policy and research, asked 1,000 likely voters: “In your own personal opinion, which of the following do you see as the biggest problem facing healthcare today?” By far, the most popular answer — attracting 58 percent of respondents — was that health care is “too expensive.” Seventeen percent said that it is “not worth the price,” which is another way of saying the same thing. Only 11 percent said that the biggest problem is “too many uninsured.”
That is, 75 percent of respondents felt that the biggest problem with our health-care system is that care is too costly. And yet Obamacare makes health insurance even more expensive. It is this fact that explains a good deal of why Obamacare is enduringly unpopular with the public, and why the president has to mislead Americans about the law’s true cost.
Ironically, the reason that there are so many Americans without health insurance is precisely that it is too expensive. Rather than address the underlying causes of high premiums, however, Obamacare doubles down on the broken system we already have.
The problem is that Republicans have not proposed a clear solution that goes directly at the problem of high health-insurance costs, and so voters have not switched allegiances on this issue:
You might think that these poll numbers make clear that the public would back Republicans’ approach to health care. But they don’t. When the Morning Consult asked the same voters, “When it comes to handling healthcare, which political party do you trust more?” respondents favored Democrats over Republicans, 42 percent to 32. Voters are appropriately skeptical that they will benefit from Obamacare, but they give the president credit for expending his political capital on an important policy problem.
Republicans, as a group, have expressed little to no interest in addressing the high cost of health insurance. The GOP appears to have settled on a strategy that involves implacably opposing Obamacare — an approach with maximal appeal to the party base — while studiously avoiding proposals for free-market reforms, reforms that would be highly controversial to those who benefit from the status quo.
There is a cost-focused agenda that would allow Republicans to go on offense:
Such a plan would encourage individual ownership of health coverage by repealing Obamacare’s employer mandate and replacing the law’s “Cadillac tax” with a cap on the value of the tax exclusion for employer-sponsored insurance. It would repeal “community rating,” the feature of the law that drives up premiums for the young. It would repeal the law’s benefit and cost-sharing mandates, which increase rates and discriminate against religious institutions. It would expand insurers’ flexibility to offer higher deductibles and health savings accounts. And it would restructure Obamacare’s subsidies so as to encourage migration to consumer-driven health-care plans.
While Plan B would not itself repeal Obamacare, it would not preclude eventual repeal. And by emphasizing those aspects of Obamacare that increase the cost of health insurance, it would allow Republicans to go on legislative offense. Democrats would feel immense pressure to vote for a cost-oriented reform package precisely because of their responsibility for nationwide rate shock. And success would have a significant impact on the scale and growth of federal spending.
Obamacare is unpopular. But voters still trust Democrats over Republicans, by double digits, on the issue of health-care reform. If Republicans want to take advantage of the former fact to reverse the latter one, they must launch an agenda tailored specifically to the problem of the high cost of health insurance. It is, by far, the public’s biggest concern. It is Obamacare’s Achilles’ heel. But it is, at present, Republicans’ weakness too.
The full article is here.