WASHINGTON – Open enrollment for President Barack Obama’s signature program – the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare – ran from the beginning of October the end of March.
For the most part, it turned out to be a disaster – from the broken website to the dropped coverage of an estimated 5 million people holding individual plans deemed not up to standards by the law.
Alabama, a state that has long had problems with coverage as just three providers have dominated the market, was hit particularly hard with dropped plans and skyrocketing premiums under the law that, ironically, was sold as one that would do the exact opposite.
That only appears to be the first wave, however.
In September, officials are scheduled to approve state health insurance rates for 2015. The rates could be the next shoe to drop from the law’s fallout, just weeks before this year’s midterm elections.
Some of these rates could ultimately be decreased, but they will at least initially have an appearance of increasing in the tedious process of health insurance rate adjustments under Obamacare. That’s where it could be problematic politically.
So far this year, President Obama and his administration have not had a whole lot go their way. There have been the revelations from the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack on U.S. consulate in Benghazi, the Internal Revenue Service scandal that involved the targeting of groups with conservative political leanings, the swap for U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for four Guantanamo detainees without congressional approval, the heart-breaking Veterans Affairs hospital scandal and most recently the humanitarian crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border with the thousands of Central American youth overwhelming Border Patrol officials.
While it is not sustained front page news now, the Obamacare storyline could make a comeback and be more of a liability than any of those aforementioned scandals that have dominated news in recent weeks because everybody is in some ways touched by health care. There may be a degree of intrigue about everything else that is plaguing the White House, but in the average American’s mind they’re in other parts of the country far removed from where they are.
According to a Heritage Foundation study released late last year, when the Obamacare exchanges are all up and running at full force, health insurance premiums are projected to increase in every state except Colorado, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Rhode Island.
None of those states have midterm election races that are consequential for control of the U.S. Senate. Alaska, Arkansas and Louisiana – three states with hotly contested races – are projected to have dramatic increases in health care premiums. It’s even more of a liability for incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) who is facing Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) to hold on to her Senate seat.
In 2009, Landrieu sold her soul to vote for Obamacare in what would be known as the “Louisiana Purchase,” a deal that landed her state an additional $300 million in Medicaid funds.
“I make no apologies for leading this effort,” Landrieu said following her critical vote that was needed to get passage in the U.S. Senate.
While Alabama won’t be hit as hard as the majority of the states under this law, residents will face at least double-digit percentage increases that vary according to age and number of family members. Some of the members of the Alabama House delegation have set up hotlines and gone to the floor to report on a lot of these stories on an individual basis.
The fire in the belly, however, seems to have gone by the wayside for at least one member. According to the Birmingham News’ Charles Dean, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Saks) told a group in St. Clair County in May there was “zero chance” of an Obamacare repeal.
He might be correct, but that’s not the winning side to be on right now heading into November. Nonetheless, it seems to be the prevailing sentiment among other Republicans in the Congress behind the scenes.
That seems to be a curious position because 10 months ago, amidst the government shutdown prompted by Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), those same Republicans were lamenting the shutdown because they thought it was going into interfere with their abilities to ride that anti-Obamacare wave back into control of the U.S. Senate. But that wave seems to have been all but abandoned by those more establishment figures in the GOP caucus and on the right.
The White House is gearing up to stage one last stand on Obamacare before the midterms, according to a Politico magazine story out earlier this week. That means they foresee problems forthcoming and while all the political ins and outs will work themselves out electorally, more fallout from Obamacare in the form of dropped coverage and higher premiums will most likely be something else the American public will have to deal with regardless of the outcome of this fall.
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