Will ObamaCare be a top issue in this fall’s presidential and congressional campaigns? Republicans better make it one if they want to prevail.
The continuing unpopularity of President Obama’s signature domestic achievement gives Republicans an enormous opportunity. Only 39.2% of Americans favor ObamaCare in the Real Clear Politics average of recent polls; nearly half, 48.8%, oppose it. There’s also a sharp partisan divide that benefits the GOP: While 78% of Democrats approve of ObamaCare, according to an April survey from the Pew Research Center, 58% of independents and 89% of Republicans disapprove of it.
Those numbers are unlikely to improve as insurers are forced to ask for drastic premium increases, driven by the fact that ObamaCare policyholders are older and sicker than the government had forecast.
Take Florida, this year’s most critical presidential battleground, which also features an open race for Marco Rubio’s U.S. Senate seat. Insurance companies there are asking regulators for an average premium increase of 17.7% for individual coverage under ObamaCare and 9.6% for small-group plans.
Or check out other key battleground states, many with marquee Senate races as well: The largest insurer in Virginia is seeking a 15.8% premium increase, while another major provider is requesting 16.6%. In Iowa, Wellmark Blue Cross & Blue Shield has written customers to warn premiums might rise by 38% to 43% next year. The company says that last year it spent $1.27 on ObamaCare policies for every $1 in premiums.
The second-largest ObamaCare provider in New Hampshire is seeking a premium increase of 45.2%. Pennsylvania’s insurers have so far asked for increases averaging 23.6% for the individual market and 7.9% for small-group plans. Moreover, fewer insurance companies are offering ObamaCare policies, reducing competition.
This is a national trend as insurers discover that all the federal tax dollars being lavished on ObamaCare plans don’t make them profitable. Many insurance companies lose money on each ObamaCare policy they issue, weakening their long-term finances. The largest health insurer in the country, UnitedHealth, pulled out of ObamaCare in 27 states after losing $475 million on that business last year. The company may quit most of the remaining exchanges, too.
Ohio is the quintessential and near-eternal presidential tossup. This year it also has a critical Senate contest. Insurers there have yet to file rate requests for next year, but last week the state’s nonprofit ObamaCare co-op shut down. Simply to break even, it reportedly would have needed premium increases of 60%. Twenty-three states organized such co-ops: 13 have closed. Of the 10 still standing, all are in financial difficulty and Illinois’s has stopped writing new policies.
Most voters will not be directly affected by these events. Only roughly 6% of Americans participate in ObamaCare (including those added to the Medicaid rolls), and many receive generous taxpayer subsidies that shelter them from premium increases.
But news of ObamaCare’s troubles—along with bigger copays and deductibles in private plans—stirs up Republicans and independents. It reminds them of Mr. Obama’s many other broken promises, such as when he said that he would “cut the cost of a typical family’s premium by up to $2,500 a year,” or the infamous pledge that “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan.” ObamaCare is a gateway to the broader issue of the president’s lack of credibility, on this and many other issues.
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