Health Reform: There were lots of celebrations on the left side of the aisle after the Senate GOP bill to repeal and replace ObamaCare died. The good times will be short lived, because one way or another ObamaCare is going away, and it's not at all clear that Democrats will gain additional leverage over what comes next by waiting for its collapse.
It was amusing to hear Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer say, after the Senate bill failed, that Republicans should "work with Democrats on a bill that lowers premiums, provides long-term stability to the markets and improves our health care system."
Lower premiums, stabilize insurance markets, improve health care? Wasn't that what ObamaCare was supposed to do in the first place?
While Schumer and company were busy calling Republicans mass murderers, here's what was actually happening with ObamaCare.
  • The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reports that the number of insurers applying to participate in ObamaCare exchanges next year plunged by 38% compared with last year, and is half what it was in 2016.
  • CMS also reported that 40 counties in Indiana, Ohio and Nevada are at risk of having zero insurance companies in their ObamaCare exchanges next year. The Kaiser Family Foundation put the number of at-risk counties at 38.
  • In addition, CMS reported that 2.4 million enrollees in 40% of the nation's counties will have just one insurance company in their area.
  • The average increase in premiums next year for a Silver plan in eight states will be 18%, according to Avalere. One of the last ObamaCare insurers in Iowa has put in for a 43.5% hike. In Washington state, the average boost is 22%. In Tennessee, the proposed rate hikes range from 21% to 42%. And so on.
  • As we noted before in this space, these insurance defections and gargantuan rate hikes have nothing to do with the Republican's repeal effort, but with the continued deterioration of the ObamaCare markets.
  • States are also starting to struggle with the costs of ObamaCare's "free" Medicaid expansion. A report from the National Association of State Budget Offices said that the expansion will cost states nearly $9 billion next year, more than twice what it cost in 2016.
  • CMS reports that the per capita costs of the Medicaid expansion are 50% higher than expected.
  • Arkansas scaled back its Medicaid expansion in May, and Ohio lawmakers voted in June to freeze the expansion in that state. Oregon's Medicaid expansion contributed a $1.6 billion gap in the state's budget. In California, the Medicaid expansion will cost the state $1.3 billion this year, putting additional strain on the state's budget.
As economist Herbert Stein once put it, if something can't go on forever, it won't.
That's the reality facing ObamaCare. And it's one Democrats have so far been able to avoid by focusing the public's ire on the fumbling GOP efforts to come up with a replacement plan.
But with repeal-and-replace now off the table, all we have left is the self-destructing ObamaCare. Don't be surprised if ObamaCare's popularity suddenly nose-dives again.
So the GOP's answer to Schumer should be: You had your chance to fix health care. You blew it. Twice. First when you passed ObamaCare, and second when you refused to admit that mistake and decided to cast Republicans as evil. Why should the GOP reward you with a third?
Plus, as the ObamaCare exchanges continue to crumble and as more states chafe at Medicaid's costs, it will be easier for Republicans to get what they want on their own — if Republicans are smart enough to seize the opportunity, that is.