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.
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"House GOP leaders on Tuesday night pitched a new strategy to avert a looming government shutdown that includes children's health funding and the delay of ObamaCare taxes. Lawmakers need to pass a short-term stopgap bill by midnight Friday, when money for the federal government runs out. The latest GOP plan would keep the government’s lights on through Feb. 16, and be coupled with a six-year extension of funding for the popular Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The continuing resolution or CR would also delay ObamaCare's medical device and Cadillac taxes for two years, and the health insurance tax for one year starting in 2019."
"A key Senate negotiator and White House official on Tuesday expressed little hope for an immigration deal this week but nonetheless predicted that Congress can avoid a government shutdown." Marc Short, the White House Capitol Hill liaison, said he's optimistic about a deal on DACA overall, but not this week. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn also said he doubts an agreement can be made before week's end.
"Homeland Security Kristjen Nielsen confirmed that President Trump used 'tough language' in an Oval Office meeting last week over immigration policy, but she said she did not hear him describe some African countries and Haiti as 'shithole countries,' as has been reported." When pressed she, also said she "didn't know" whether Norway was a predominately white country.
"Chances of a government shutdown grew Monday as Republicans concluded that they would be unable to reach a long-term spending accord by the Friday deadline. GOP leaders are now turning to a short-term funding measure in hopes of keeping agencies open while talks continue, but Democratic leaders say they are unlikely to support any deal that does not protect young illegal immigrants. Aides to key negotiators from both parties planned to meet Tuesday in an effort to rekindle budget talks, setting up a Wednesday meeting of the leaders themselves. If they cannot agree, the government would shut down at midnight Friday for the first time since 2013."
“'As a junior foreign service officer, I signed an oath to serve faithfully the president and his administration in an apolitical fashion, even when I might not agree with certain policies. My instructors made clear that if I believed I could not do that, I would be honor bound to resign. That time has come,' Feeley said, according to an excerpt of his resignation letter read to Reuters."