Democrats are Worried About Health Insurance Premium Hikes Under Obamacare



Politico notes that Democrats have reoriented their Obamacare PR efforts toward defending against attacks that focus on higher health insurance premiums. The news, though, is not so much that Democrats are preparing to defend the law as that they are openly worried about the political effects of higher health insurance premiums.

"Most state health insurance rates for 2015 are scheduled to be approved by early fall, and most are likely to rise," the piece says, "timing that couldn't be worse for Democrats already on defense in the midterms."

The party behind the health law probably should be concerned. The conservative Heritage Foundation has projected double digit rate increases in states such as Arkanas, Alaska, and Louisiana. And, as the report indicates, "although no state has finalized its rate, 21 have posted bids for 2015. Average preliminary premiums went up in all 21, though only a few by double digits." These are unsubsidized rates, and some will likely be negotiated down. 

It's not clear how big the hikes will be, in other words, but so far it looks very much like the trend is toward somewhat higher rates in most places and significantly higher rates in a few areas, despite repeated administration promises that the law would lower the cost of health care. ("We end up saving $2 trillion…a lot of those savings can go back into the pockets of American consumers in the form of lower premiums," Obama said in 2009.)

How will Democrats respond? House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's communications director provides a hint, telling Politico that there's a lot of "misinformation" and that "you have to make sure that members have the historical trends, they have the new information in a straightforward way….It's setting the proper context that's so crucial here." The context and the historical trends all seem fairly straightforward here: President Obama promised that the law would reduce premiums. Now, with the law's coverage expansion taking effect, unsubsidized premiums for plans purchased on the exchanges look likely to rise. 

To the extent that there is a bigger picture here, it's that Democrats, having unilaterally passed Obamacare, now in some sense have taken ownership of the nation's health care system. Its problems are their problems, and that's not a particularly enviable position to be in going into an election.