- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 27, 2016

President Obama urged thousands of allies Thursday to cut through the “political noise” around his signature health care law and drive people into its web-based exchanges starting Nov. 1, betting consumers will be “pleasantly surprised” with their options if they actually log on.

Mr. Obama knows the fourth and final enrollment period of his tenure will be pivotal to the fate of his law, which has failed to attract the young, healthy enrollees needed to make its economics work.

The administration this week admitted that 2017 premiums for popular plans on the exchanges will jump by an average of 25 percent on the federal HealthCare.gov portal serving 39 states, and 22 percent nationwide.

Republicans said the report confirmed their long-standing fears about the 2010 law, while the administration stressed that a small percentage of Americans purchase insurance on the exchanges, and that subsidies cushion the financial blow for more than 8 out of every 10 who do enter the web-based marketplace.

Mr. Obama said the media and GOP opponents are obscuring those benefits for consumers, so pro-Obamacare forces need “to clear the bugs off the windshield so they can see the road ahead.”

“I want to make sure everyone has the facts they need to be successful in their efforts,” he told about 25,000 Obamacare enrollment workers and volunteers in a White House conference call.

He stressed that seven out of 10 exchange customers will still be able to find coverage for $75 per month or less.

Yet even the White House has acknowledged that up to 7 million people who buy insurance on their own will pay full freight for 2017 coverage, and that more generous subsidies or other fixes might be needed.

Critics of the law say it needs to be repealed before it succumbs to a “death spiral” in which insurers raise their rates to make up their costs, chasing away the very customers who could turn the program around.

They also say it’s also unreasonable to expect taxpayers to pick up the tab for ever-increasing Obamacare subsidies that backstop customers against soaring premiums on the exchanges.

Both sides of the political aisle want to see changes, but Americans at large diverge on what should be done.

Just shy of a third, 32 percent, want the next president and Congress to scrap the Affordable Care Act once President Obama is no longer in charge of his signature achievement, yet 31 percent want to expand it, according to a nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation poll released Thursday.

Roughly one in five want to move forward with the law in its current form, while 9 percent want the next administration to scale it back.

Mr. Obama was bullish about the future of his main legacy item and his allies’ ability to root out young and healthy enrollees.

But he said the coming signup season would be a public test of Obamacare’s mettle, as rates rise in some parts of the country and remain stable in others.

“Part of what we can do this time is to overcome the skeptics, to prove people wrong and to provide momentum so that when the next administration comes in, they are starting from a position of strength and will be able to say, you know what this program is working well, it can work even better,” he said.

Even as the Obamacare debate rages, voters in the Kaiser poll actually ranked health care below issues such as the economy, foreign policy and the candidates themselves in deciding who to vote for, according to Kaiser.

On health care alone, qualms about high drug prices or the inability to compare doctors and hospitals outweighed issues directly related to Mr. Obama’s law.

That hasn’t stopped GOP candidates from using the program’s struggles as a political weapon, as voters get their first clear look at rising rates in the exchanges just days before Election Day.

Republican nominee Donald Trump on Thursday pointed to reports that monthly premiums could spike by 116 percent for some Arizona customers, before government subsidies are applied.

“Don’t worry, you’ll be there very soon,” Mr. Trump told rally goers in Springfield, Ohio. “Unless I win, in which case you’re not going to have to worry about it.”

Mr. Trump has vowed to work with GOP lawmakers to repeal Obamacare and replace its heavy mandates and coverage requirements with market-oriented reforms,

Yet little more than half of voters say they know what Mr. Trump wants to do on health care, while seven in 10 say they understand Mrs. Clinton’s position.

The Democratic nominee wants to entice people into the exchanges by extending the reach of taxpayer-funded subsidies under the program and adding a government-run plan, or “public option,” to compete with private plans in Obamacare’s web-based insurance exchanges.

The number of insurers participating in the federal HealthCare.gov marketplace is slated to drop by 28 percent from 2016 to 2017, as some companies say they are losing too much money to stay in the program.

Kaiser found that enthusiasm for the public option is tied to what it’s called.

When half of its sample was asked about a “public health insurance option,” 70 percent liked and roughly a quarter opposed it.

The other half of voters were asked about a “government-administered public health insurance option.” This time, about half — 53 percent — said they favor it, while 41 percent were opposed.

Senate Republicans locked in tough re-election battles have chastised Democratic opponents who support the public option, saying it amounts to “more Obamacare” and would amplify the program’s stumbles.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide