Obamacare’s Approval Rating Drops as Premiums Climb

In early October, President Obama said that the midterm elections would be a referendum on his policies. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) went so far as to predict that Obamacare would be a “winner” at the polls.

The voters had other ideas. They sent Democrats packing in eight Senate races. Louisiana Democrat Mary Landrieu may be the ninth casualty after a run-off later this year. In the House, the president’s party lost 12 seats.

Voter displeasure with Obamacare is a big reason why. In the weeks leading up to the election, more than half of all Americans disapproved of the healthcare law.

It’s no coincidence that 29 of the 60 Democratic senators who voted for Obamacare in December 2009 are no longer in the Senate.

Obamacare’s approval ratings will only fall further, as insurance is expected to grow more expensive in the coming year.

PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates that premiums under Obamacare will rise an average of 7.5 percent in 2015. In about one-third of the states the consultancy reviewed, premiums will almost double.

A recent Investor’s Business Daily survey of insurance costs in Washington, D.C. and the biggest cities in 15 states found that premiums for Obamacare’s “bronze plans” — the cheapest option on the exchanges — will increase an average of 14 percent in 2015. In some major cities, premiums are set to jump by up to 64 percent.

Even seemingly moderate premiums hikes will put the cost of insurance well above pre-Obamacare levels.

California, for instance, projects that premiums will only increase 4.2 percent this year. But state insurance commissioner Dave Jones notes that Californians are paying 22 percent to 88 percent more for individual health coverage than they did before Obamacare.

Pre-Obamacare, the average insurance premium in Indiana was $172, according to online insurance marketplace eHealth. By next year, PwC reports that Hoosiers will pay nearly triple that — $514, on average.

Next year’s prices continue last year’s trend. According to a recent study from the Brookings Institution, premiums in 2014 rose in every state but six.

A recent study from the National Bureau of Economic Research reported that 2014 insurance rates across the entire non-group market were 24 percent higher on average than they would have been without Obamacare.

Another study by HealthPocket.com — an online insurance marketplace — found that premium increases among men ranged from nearly 23 percent for 63-year-olds to 78 percent for 23-year-olds. For women, 23-year-olds saw an increase just shy of 45 percent; 30-year-old women “enjoyed” the smallest increase — 35 percent.

Many Americans are also stuck with small networks of providers who will accept their insurance. According to McKinsey & Co., almost half of all 2014 marketplace plans used narrow networks.

“It’s been a low priority for insurance companies to maintain these provider directories,” said Sabrina Corlette, a research professor at Georgetown University’s Center on Health Insurance Reforms.

The reason is simple — insurers have no choice. Obamacare caps out-of-pocket spending and mandates that health plans offer an enormous suite of benefits — not all of which patients may even want. So insurers can only keep premiums from rising even higher by limiting the number of doctors and hospitals that they’ll allow beneficiaries to see.

“If you’re competing on price and you can’t vary copayment structure or deductibles, the only thing you can do is try and keep your networks as affordable as possible,” said Gerald Kominski, director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research in Los Angeles.

That situation won’t improve in 2015. A study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has found that insurers will most likely further narrow their networks in the coming year.

Americans are upset that Obamacare has not yielded the health insurance marketplace the president promised. The law hasn’t lowered the average family’s insurance bill by $2,500 a year, as the president promised no less than 19 times. And millions of consumers haven’t been able to keep their existing health insurance if they liked it — again, contrary to President Obama’s pledge.

Voters have taken out their frustration on Democrats at the ballot box. According to Politico, “double-digit rate hikes for individual health insurance plans [were] an issue,” in a number of the country’s most competitive senate races.

How many more times will lawmakers from the party of Obamacare get trounced at the polls before they realize that their disastrous law needs to be repealed and replaced?

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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