The @#%& is about to hit the fan.
No, not ISIS moving to attack the West, not Russia invading Ukraine, not Ebola coming to America, not the Middle East, not Libya (where al Qaeda — surprise — now rules), not even Ferguson.
Health care costs are about to explode — again — and just in time for the 2014 midterm elections.
When the supermajority of Democrats in the Senate passed the ironically named Affordable Care Act in 2009, one of the chief requirements of the bill was to force health insurers, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals and health care centers to share in the staggering $2 trillion cost over the next decade. But once made law, President Obama pushed off the cost until well, just later — certainly not before the 2012 election.
That later is now, or Sept. 30, to be precise. Remember when the president said the 10-year cost for his health care reform would be $850 billion and that no one would pay an additional penny in taxes? Ha. Insurers will have to pony up some $8 billion on the last day of September, and guess where they’re going to get the cash? Straight from your wallet, your purse.
Here are some numbers, straight from my own checkbook register. In October 2011, before the start of Obamacare, I was paying $386 a month. Yes, fairly reasonable, but less so when you factor in my $10,000 deductible (and two teenage children who keep falling off things). The following October, the premiums rose 23 percent to $474.
In October 2013, my monthly rate rose again, nearly 32 percent, to $623. Same exact coverage, just more money. Then, this year, come Sept. 30, my new premiums will be $1,097. That’s a 76 percent increase from the previous year, and, all told, my premiums have risen 184 percent in just three years.
But that’s not all. My deductible has also jumped to $12,000 (but my out-of-pocket expenses are, under some complicated formula my Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield health adviser couldn’t really explain, going to be higher than that, maybe substantially so).
Now, in order to get a break on my costs (a federal subsidy paid, of course, by other taxpayers), I’d have to make less than $62,000 for a family of three. That means someone making $62,001, which means about $46,500 a year or $3,875 a month after taxes (if he’s lucky), will be shelling more than a quarter of his money for health care.
And back to why. Although Mr. Obama said he would hold those bad old insurance companies accountable and make them pay, pay, pay, there are no mechanisms within the law to keep providers from doing just what they’re doing now — passing the cost on to you in the form of new, much higher premiums.
What’s more, after Mr. Obama uttered what Politifact called the “Lie of the Year” — that if you liked your insurance, you could keep it — implementation of many of the more onerous parts of the law were delayed. Now, though, all those so-called “subpar” insurance policies are being eliminated.
That is putting Obamacare right back on the front burner for this midterm election, just as it was in the 2010 midterms. Then, voters mobbed summer town halls to vent, and Republicans went on to trounce Democrats, pulling off the largest seat swap in any midterm since 1948.
Right about now, across the country, Americans are either getting their monthly bills for drastically higher premiums, or they’ve already got them and are beginning to shop for new insurance in preparation for the coming open-enrollment season this fall. But they’re no doubt finding that the new policies mandated by Obamacare are raising costs sky-high — there’s nothing cheaper.
The president’s approval rating Wednesday dropped to 15 points underwater — 39 percent approve, 54 percent disapprove, according to Gallup. Meanwhile, a Pew Research poll found that 54 percent of Americans say Mr. Obama is too weak on foreign policy, while just 36 percent think he is a strong leader in world affairs.
With so many crises in the world today, the president is showing quite clearly that he’s in over his head — able to speak eloquently about global problems, but unable to build coalitions or act boldly on his own. Even Obama supporters are now bailing in droves.
Americans vote on pocketbook issues. Many still have never heard of ISIS, but an awful lot just got a mind-blowing bill from their health insurance companies. They haven’t stormed the summer town halls (mainly because, after 2010, lawmakers stopped holding them). Still, they’ll be turning out on Nov. 4, especially the angry ones.
And there seem to be a lot more of those around these days.
• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @josephcurl.