A Merry Christmas for Obamacare?


Republicans couldn’t manage to repeal Obamacare — and in a few weeks, millions of Americans are going to regret it all over again. Open enrollment ends for the shaky exchange on Friday, and if the latest stories are any indication, more policy holders will be angrier than ever before.

In Florida, Heidi and Richard Reiter bought their own coverage in 2017 and paid a whopping $26,000 in premiums for their family. That sounds like a bargain now, since keeping the same coverage for 2018 would have cost the couple $40,000 in premiums, the Miami Herald’s Daniel Chang points out. “That’s more than a lot of people’s mortgage payments,” Richard told Chang.

And climbing. The market’s uncertainty is causing costs to skyrocket, especially now that some of the big players from the insurance industry have dropped out. The few that are left are hiking costs to help balance out the loss of the cost-sharing device President Trump canceled out in October. Florida Blue is one such company, raising rates by 20 percent to cover their losses. No wonder the state’s average premiums are jumping 45 percent. “The people in Congress need to understand what’s going on,” Reiter vented.

But the problem isn’t that Congress doesn’t understand – the problem is that they won’t act. Republicans couldn’t find consensus in their own party to deal with the tricky issues of the law, which are starting to resurface even now. In exchange for her support on the tax reform bill, Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) demanded a vote on one of the proposed Obamacare fixes, the Alexander-Murray plan. The joint brainchild of Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the legislation would extend the subsidies Trump ended for another two years.

FRC wouldn’t necessarily be opposed to the idea, except that unlike other fixes, it doesn’t do anything to address the major problem of taxpayer-funded abortion in the subsidies. A much better plan from House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and Senate Finance Chair Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) does. From its very first bullet point, Hatch and Brady explain that their “bicameral agreement” would fund cost savings reductions (CSRs) through 2019 “with pro-life protections.” Unlike the Alexander-Murray idea, it delivers on one of voters’ key priorities — ending the forced partnership between taxpayers and the abortion industry.

For now, all eyes are on the Friday deadline. The law is imploding all right, but how spectacularly is still anyone’s guess. With enrollment barely scratching the surface of solvency and major insurance companies looking for the escape hatch, the country literally can’t afford another year of Obama’s namesake. Let’s hope the New Year brings a new spirit of cooperation to finally do something about it.
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