Obamacare isn’t forever, but what’s next is worse

In the new issue of the Weekly Standard, Jay Cost argues that Obamacare isn’t forever. After a big windup, Jay delivers a changeup. He doesn’t foresee Obamacare going away any time soon; it has too big a constituency for its benefits. He postulates that the health-insurance exchanges that will be established under Obamacare provide a mechanism for modulating Obamacare in some beneficial (if unspecified) respect.

According to the Washington Post’s tabulation, the federal government will run 26 of the Obamacare exchanges (because the states have declined to do the dirty work). The federal government will also work with seven states to establish Obamacare exchanges. Only 17 states and the District of Columbia will establish their own Obamacare exchanges. Arkansas has received conditional approval to operate an exchange in a state partnership with the federal government, and it receives special attention in Cost’s article as an optimistic portent.

I think the Obamacare exchanges are a disaster waiting to happen, as this Associated Press report can only suggest. To paraphrase Joe Raposo’s old Sesame Street song, it’s not easy being free.

The immediate future under Obamacare is easier to anticipate than the hoped-for reforms that Jay Cost foresees. The Wall Street Journal reports, for example (and please do read the whole thing):

In a private presentation to brokers late last month, UnitedHealth Group Inc., UNH -1.09% the nation’s largest carrier, said premiums for some consumers buying their own plans could go up as much as 116%, and small-business rates as much as 25% to 50%. The company said the estimates were driven in part by growing medical costs not directly tied to the law. It also cited the law’s requirements that health status not affect rates and that plans include certain minimum benefits and limits to out-of-pocket charges, among other things.

Jeff Alter, who leads UnitedHealth’s employer and individual insurance business, said the numbers represented a “high-end scenario,” not an average. “There are some scenarios in which a member could see as much as a 116% increase or over,” he said, though others, such as some older consumers, could see decreases. He said the company dwelled on the possible increases because it was trying to prepare brokers to speak with clients facing big jumps.

Other carriers have also projected steep rate increases during private meetings and conversations with brokers. Brokers say they are being told to prepare the marketplace for small-business and individual rate increases as carriers get ready to file specific rate proposals and plan designs with regulators.

Insurers are “not being shy that premiums are going to increase in 2014,” and are urging brokers to “brace our clients,” said John Lacy, vice president of group benefits at Bouchard Insurance, a brokerage in Clearwater, Fla. His firm has been hearing from carrier representatives that individual premiums in Florida could go up 35% to 50%, on average, and small-business rates around 30%, though it hopes to find strategies to blunt the impact.

Obamacare isn’t forever, but Jay Cost to the contrary notwithstanding, the next stop is far more likely to be socialized medicine in the Canadian style, as Charles Krauthammer indicates in the video below, than anything hospitable to free markets or free men.

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