- - Sunday, June 7, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The future of Obamacare teeters, waiting for a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, and many Americans are concerned over budget-breaking rate increases in their health insurance coming in 2016. Proposed rates from major insurance companies look to be arriving on a runaway train and those Americans appear to be tied up and lying across the tracks. This was not the way President Obama promised it would be.

The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have posted online a list of insurers by state that propose rate increases of 10 percent or higher for next year. In New York, for example, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Empire Health Choice and Excellus are among companies requesting an average increase of almost 16 percent. Insurers in South Carolina, which include Aetna, Consumers’ Choice and Coventry, want to increase premiums by nearly 28 percent. Insurers cite unexpectedly heavy use of medical services by policyholders.

Consumers can only cross their fingers that insurance regulators slash those eye-popping figures. Salaries increased merely 2.6 percent on average for the 12-month period ending in March, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and only 1.6 percent for the year before that. Double-digit premium increases for families besieged by bills and declining ability to pay them, are as frightening as a shark in the swimming pool.

Moving the goalposts is standard operating procedure for the Obama administration. Though the White House had originally anticipated 13 million enrollees by its target date of March 31, it cut that goal to 9 million to enable it to “celebrate” when the total reached 10.2 million. But no one can move the goalposts far enough to accommodate Mr. Obama’s pledge, made in 2007 when he was a mere senator, that the insurance scheme he would deliver would “cover every American and cut the cost of a typical family’s premium by up to $2,500 a year.” The average annual family premium in 2014 was $16,834, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, and that was 26 percent higher than in 2009, when Mr. Obama took office.

A much larger threat than exploding premiums could bring Obamacare tumbling to an early grave this month. The U.S. Supreme Court is to decide in King v. Burwell whether the law as written extends federal subsidies to residents of the 34 states that declined to establish Obamacare exchanges. If the high court decides that subsidies were meant only for enrollees in state exchanges, as the law plainly states, 6.4 million Americans would be required to pay the full cost of their coverage — an amount adding up to $1.7 billion a month nationwide. Many hanging onto a budget by a shoestring would likely drop their coverage, though Republicans in Congress are considering a temporary extension of subsidies.

Sometimes, the masterminds in Washington are too clever by half. Their robbing of $700 million from Medicare to pay for Obamacare, their wasting of another $700 million on unworkable Obamacare exchange websites for Massachusetts, Oregon, Maryland, Hawaii and Nevada, and their shifting of health care expenses from older, ailing Americans to the young, are of a piece with the wealth redistribution ploys that invariably doom pie-in-the-sky socialist schemes.

Americans have repeatedly given Mr. Obama the benefit of the doubt in the face of his incompetent judgment, but he has proved that he is in over his head as president. Obamacare is in critical condition, and the conundrum over how to pay the nation’s health care bill could wind up right where it was stuck six years ago — in the lap of Congress. As an interim measure, Congress could create a special inspector general for Obamacare to control the exploding costs of health care. Such a watchdog, independent of meddling and supervision, is clearly in order.

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