The Affordable Care Act’s open enrollment period for 2017 began yesterday. The timing couldn’t have been worse for Hillary Clinton. Across the country, exchanges opened with higher premiums, fewer carriers, less choice and smaller networks. Did I mention higher premiums? Forbes reports:
What they’ll discover is a witch’s brew of double-digit premium hikes, restrictive provider networks, and fewer coverage choices. Many exchange customers will have only a single insurance provider to pick from. And more than a million enrollees will find that their current plans have vanished from the exchanges.
For starters, rate hikes have reached levels unimaginable before Obamacare. Nationwide, the lowest-cost bronze exchange plan will cost over 28 percent more, on average, in 2017. And according to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), premium hikes in the 38 states covered under HealthCare.gov will rise by 25 percent.
Many areas will have it a lot worse. In Phoenix, for instance, premiums for the cheapest bronze plan will surge more than 176 percent. In Oklahoma City, prices are up nearly 80 percent; in Chicago, almost 65 percent.
And that is when the exchanges work at all. Here in Minnesota, the MNSure web site–our local version of Obamacare–crashed yesterday. Insurance applicants wasted hours trying to get through, encountering nothing but frustration. To the extent they were able to get information, they found big premium increases, declining coverage, smaller networks and fewer choices. In some areas of Minnesota, there may not be a single insurer offering MNSure coverage by the time the enrollment period is over.
The situation was so bad that Minnesota’s left-wing governor, Mark Dayton, blamed “robocalls” for bringing down the MNSure site, darkly hinting that Republicans might be behind his program’s failure. Dayton’s claim was absurd, but he needed to do something to fend off scandal: after spending $400 million, the state still doesn’t have an insurance exchange that works. In fact, property taxes are going up all across Minnesota as counties struggle to hire enough employees to accomplish manually what was supposed to happen electronically.
Obamacare has always been unpopular, and it will become more unpopular every day as the enrollment period proceeds. In Minnesota, private polling shows that MNSure is the number one issue with voters, and Republican candidates are pounding on it, relentlessly. I assume something similar is going on in other states.
At the presidential level, I can’t remember a campaign as issue-free as the one we have had this year. The personalities of the candidates have been almost the only issues the press has wanted to talk about. But across America, where families are struggling to pay their bills, Obamacare is a deal-breaker for the Democratic Party.
I don’t know a lot of undecided voters, but polls tell us there are quite a few. The disaster of Obamacare could well be the issue that swings a critical mass of voters to say “no way” to a third Obama term. It would be ironic if, after all of the bizarre nonsense we have lived through, an actual bread and butter issue eventually decides the race.