Good News for Obamacare Is Bad News for Conservative Pundits

The warnings that insurance premiums will skyrocket next year look increasingly hyperbolic.

National Journal
Lucia Graves
April 18, 2014, 7:46 a.m.

Con­ser­vat­ives were sure at every turn that Obama­care would fail, but as the num­bers roll in, those con­vic­tions are look­ing in­creas­ingly ideo­lo­gic­al.

First they said nobody would en­roll. Then they said first-year premi­ums would be through the roof. And later, they warned of a “death spir­al,” wherein premi­ums would go up un­con­trol­lably. My col­league Sam Baker has writ­ten an ex­cel­lent ana­lys­is of the situ­ation, the up­shot of which is that Obama­care is on a win­ning streak.

The next great fron­ti­er of con­ser­vat­ive hy­per­bole con­cerns premi­ums for 2015, with crit­ics warn­ing that costs will double or even triple next year.

As of this week, we have good evid­ence to the con­trary. Health in­sur­ance premi­um rates are ex­pec­ted go up just 7 per­cent — a rate of in­crease much lower than what crit­ics were pre­dict­ing. And the non­par­tis­an Con­gres­sion­al Budget Of­fice is pre­dict­ing that premi­um hikes will be re­l­at­ively mod­est.

“The double-rate in­creases we’ve been hear­ing are prob­ably ex­ag­ger­ated,” Dave Axene, a fel­low with the So­ci­ety of Ac­tu­ar­ies, told USA Today. “That’s not what we’re see­ing from the ac­tu­ar­ial or­gan­iz­a­tions — I guess we’re be­ing a little bit more op­tim­ist­ic.”

“A little bit more op­tim­ist­ic” is something of an un­der­state­ment. For weeks, pun­dits have been spout­ing apo­ca­lyptic no­tions about the costs of in­sur­ance premi­ums, warn­ing Amer­ic­ans that “the worst is yet to come.”

Writ­ing in The Wash­ing­ton Post last month, Mi­chael Ger­son spec­u­lated that premi­um in­creases could hit triple di­gits. “Over the past sev­er­al years, in­creases in in­sur­ance premi­ums have av­er­aged nearly 6 per­cent,” he wrote. “Be­cause of the rocky launch, age dis­tri­bu­tion, and delayed pro­vi­sions of Obama­care ex­changes, in­sur­ance com­pany of­fi­cials ex­pect far lar­ger premi­um in­creases this spring — in the double di­gits, if not the triple di­gits, in many places.”

He goes on to rep­rim­and the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion for fail­ing to pre­pare Amer­ic­ans for these drastic­ally in­creased premi­ums, call­ing it “an­oth­er round of Obama­care over­prom­ising.” In fact, it’s Ger­son who’s blown the ex­pect­a­tions game — not that he’s alone in that.

Just last week, Scott Got­tlieb, a res­id­ent fel­low at the Amer­ic­an En­ter­prise In­sti­tute, wrote in For­bes that “health in­sur­ance premi­ums are show­ing the sharpest in­creases per­haps ever” and that “rate hikes have ac­cel­er­ated as Obama­care’s reg­u­la­tions have star­ted to get im­ple­men­ted.”

In an ap­pear­ance on Meet the Press, John Sununu cited a re­port from Well­Point that pre­dicted “double-di­git-plus” in­creases. The re­port startled ana­lysts at the time, with some say­ing they sus­pec­ted the com­pany was “hedging bets” in case of a change in rules. But that nu­ance didn’t make it in­to Sununu’s talk­ing points.

And con­ser­vat­ive blog­ger Ed Mor­ris­sey cited a sen­sa­tion­al head­line to make his case. “Re­mem­ber how Barack Obama and Demo­crats prom­ised to ‘bend the cost curve down­ward’ with Obama­Care?” he wrote on Hot Air. “Well, they got most of that prom­ise cor­rect. Obama­care has bent the cost curve all right, but sharply up­ward — and in 2015, ex­pect them to not just bend but ab­so­lutely ‘skyrock­et.’ “

That re­port was widely ban­died about in the con­ser­vat­ive blo­go­sphere. “In polit­ics, there’s only so much mas­sa­ging of the truth and flat-out ly­ing that one can do be­fore the head­lines catch up with the de­ceit,” wrote Na­tion­al Re­view‘s Charles Cooke. “Here’s one that ought to scare the hell out of any Demo­crats who are still hop­ing that The Charge of the Light Bri­gade can be an ef­fect­ive elect­or­al strategy for them: ‘O-Care premi­ums to skyrock­et.’ ” In this case, of course, it was de­ceit that caught up with the head­lines.

The ori­gin of these crit­ics’ ar­gu­ment can be traced to a thinly sourced art­icle in The Hill, which quoted a former Cigna ex­ec­ut­ive say­ing things like, “My gut tells me that, for some people, these in­creases will be sig­ni­fic­ant.” The re­ports about in­sur­ance rates pos­sibly trip­ling, which were widely re­peated, ap­pear to come from a single an­onym­ous in­sur­ance ex­ec­ut­ive.

The irony is that, had con­ser­vat­ives been a little less quick to trum­pet every nug­get of po­ten­tially bad news, the ad­min­is­tra­tion would be rid­ing a little less high right now — and their own pre­dic­tions would look a little less silly.

Nobody knows for sure what will hap­pen next year. And there are still plenty of Obama­care sup­port­ers who en­vi­sion premi­um in­creases in the double di­gits. But pun­dits like Ger­son and even some straight news out­lets have been far too con­fid­ent that everything will be ter­rible.

What We're Following See More »
STAFF PICKS
When It Comes to Mining Asteroids, Technology Is Only the First Problem
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Obama Reflects on His Economic Record
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Reagan Families, Allies Lash Out at Will Ferrell
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."

Source:
PEAK CONFIDENCE
Clinton No Longer Running Primary Ads
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-ex­pec­ted primary battle be­hind her, former Sec­ret­ary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton (D) is no longer go­ing on the air in up­com­ing primary states. “Team Clin­ton hasn’t spent a single cent in … Cali­for­nia, In­di­ana, Ken­tucky, Ore­gon and West Vir­gin­ia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “cam­paign has spent a little more than $1 mil­lion in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone back­er in the Sen­ate, said the can­did­ate should end his pres­id­en­tial cam­paign if he’s los­ing to Hil­lary Clin­ton after the primary sea­son con­cludes in June, break­ing sharply with the can­did­ate who is vow­ing to take his in­sur­gent bid to the party con­ven­tion in Phil­adelphia.”

Source:
CITIZENS UNITED PT. 2?
Movie Based on ‘Clinton Cash’ to Debut at Cannes
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."

Source:
×