- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 25, 2013

An apple a day keeps the doctor away, and the White House said Wednesday that insurance premiums under Obamacare at least will be more appealing for consumers than a wormy apple.

The nauseating analogy came as the administration released cost projections for the government-subsidized health insurance program that is set to start on Tuesday, in the midst of a furious sales job by President Obama.

While the administration is touting the insurance premium costs as “lower than expected,” White House press secretary Jay Carney acknowledged that it’s a difficult concept to quantify because many of the insurance plans were not in place previously.

“This is not … apples-to-apples,” Mr. Carney said. “It’s an apple full of worms compared to an apple that’s fresh and delicious.”

The report by the Department of Health and Human Services, released on the same day that Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas ended a talkathon aimed at killing Obamacare by denying it any funds, sparked an immediate debate over the accuracy and value of the administration’s cost projections.

The report said premiums are coming in lower than expected in the 36 states where the federal government will run part or all of the health insurance “exchanges.” The cheapest plan, known as “bronze” coverage, would cost from $119 per month in Tennessee to $286 in Wyoming, before government subsidies are factored in.

With subsidies, the administration said, a family of four in Arkansas with income of $50,000 would pay no premiums at all for the cheapest plan, and $57 per month in Mr. Cruz’s home state. The same family would pay as much as $192 per month in Arizona.

But the administration didn’t mention that Obamacare premiums in many cases will be higher than what consumers are currently paying for their health plans. For example, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that a 27-year-old male nonsmoker in Nashville, Tenn., could pay as little as $41 a month currently for a bare-bones policy, but would be required to pay $114 a month for the cheapest option under Obamacare.

That prompted Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, to say premiums that are “lower than projected” are not the same as “lower than they are now.”

Rep. Renee L. Ellmers, North Carolina Republican, said the report shows that the law will triple insurance rates for women and quadruple them for men in her state.

“With less than a week to go before Obamacare is implemented, the Obama administration has handed North Carolinians a devastating announcement,” Ms. Ellmers said. “Thanks to this terrible law, men and women across the state will now see their insurance premiums jump to unprecedented levels. This law has to go. The people of North Carolina sent me here to stop Obamacare — and I intend to do just that.”

Democrats predictably hailed the report as more good news.

“The Affordable Care Act is already providing important benefits and protections for Marylanders and people across the country,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Maryland Democrat. “As more information comes in, it is clear that the law will also provide affordable health insurance options for millions of Americans.”

Mr. Obama will step up his sales pitch Thursday morning in Maryland, at Prince George’s Community College in Largo, to urge people — particularly young people — to sign up for the health insurance. Meanwhile, his allies are trying to beat back efforts by conservatives to defund the program.

Organizing for Action, the remnant of Mr. Obama’s re-election operation, sent an email to millions of supporters Tuesday night blasting conservative groups such as Crossroads GPS and Americans for Prosperity over their campaign to repeal the health-care law. The message asked for donations to fight back on the airwaves.

“If you turn on the TV right now, you’re going to hear a lot about Obamacare,” said Erin Hannigan, OFA’s health care campaign manager. “Quite frankly, a lot of it is crap — and that’s because some groups are spending an insane amount of money trying to mislead people about what the law does. It seems almost every wealthy conservative group is putting their money behind trying to make Obamacare fail.”

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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