Well, we told you so.
I’m not talking about Donald Trump’s self-immolating bid for president, which many conservatives predicted would end with Hillary Clinton in the White House and Republicans in the woodshed. Though that looks likely to come true, too.
I’m talking about Obamacare.
According to a report from the Department of Health and Human Services this week, the Affordable Care Act is certain to get a lot less affordable, and quick, just as many Republicans predicted when President Barack Obama rolled out his plan to change the way we get health insurance.
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You can call Republicans obstructionists, and you’d be right. Many were willing to shut down the government in protest of Obamacare, a move that I think we can fairly criticize as a wasteful and ineffective stunt.
But that didn’t make them wrong about how bad the president’s signature domestic policy would be for consumers. Boy, is it bad.
Premiums for midlevel plans, before taxpayer subsidies, will increase an average of 25 percent across 39 states this year. Some states will face even bigger rises, some smaller. And, at least one in five consumers will only have a single insurer option, creating dangerous competition-free zones in what should be a competitive marketplace offering choice.
When UnitedHealth Group, the nation’s largest health insurer, announced late last year that it had lost a whopping $1 billion on its ACA plans, the writing was on the wall. And indeed, a couple months later, it announced it would exit most of the marketplaces.
This is because of some very simple economics that are not in dispute by the Obama administration. The ACA depends on young, healthy “invincibles” — people who typically don’t buy health insurance, to subsidize the higher costs of older, sick folks. And they are not buying it.
Despite all those awful, pandering ads aimed at millennials in 2013 — you remember the ones, with college kids doing keg stands and shotskis? — people in the all-important 18-to-34 age range accounted for only 28 percent of exchange members in 2014, and that remained the case for 2016. This is well below the 40 percent level needed to create a stable rate market.
The idea that young, healthy twentysomethings would purchase something they historically did not, just because Obama really wanted them to, was always going to be the true test of the ACA. And not surprisingly, lack of millennial participation is now the program’s canary in a coal mine.
Back in 2014, Forbes examined the average costs of health care under Obamacare for a millennial, and the sticker shock was eye-popping. Someone earning $25,000 in Arizona, for example, would pay $2,424 in total monthly premiums, which is 10 percent of their annual income. Worse, they’d still have to pay a $4,000 deductible. Those numbers were repeated, and in some cases worse, across multiple states.
Why would a healthy 29-year-old, trying to save some money for a house or a family, divert nearly 40 percent of her income to a product she doesn’t think she will use?
With the latest report, don’t be surprised if you come across some well-earned Republican gloating. House Speaker Paul Ryan chided Obama, saying, “The president recently compared Obamacare to a Samsung Galaxy Note 7, and he’s right: The disastrous law is blowing up. But at least you can return the phone.”
Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska was even more pointed. “We’ve reached this point because Obamacare is built on the lie that Washington’s bureaucrats are smart enough to plan health care for millions of Americans. At every turn — whether it’s the co-ops collapsing, premiums skyrocketing, or big insurers bailing — the American people have paid the price. More spin won’t solve this. It’s time for the White House to admit that this law isn’t working.”
But will they? With the economy still gaining its footing and foreign policy failures in evidence around the globe, Obama’s legacy is being shakily propped up almost entirely by the ACA. What else will he have to show for eight years if his signature domestic policy achievement is shown to be a big, fat bust?
This, like so many other complicated problems, will apparently be left for the next administration to sort out. But it’s increasingly impossible to pretend that Obama’s health care house of cards can stand. As Republicans have said all along, repeal and replace.
Contact Cupp at thesecupp.com
This column originally appeared in the New York Daily News.
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