Obamacare Is a Trainwreck, If By Trainwreck You Mean Working Better Than Expected

by evanmcmurry

Via Jonathan Cohn:

On Thursday, officials in that state offered the first detailed glimpse of what consumers buying health benefits on their own can expect to pay next year. And from the looks of things, these consumers will be getting a pretty good deal.

Based on the premiums that insurers have submitted for final regulatory approval, the majority of Californians buying coverage on the state’s new insurance exchange will be paying less—in many cases, far less—than they would pay for equivalent coverage today. And while a minority will still end up writing bigger premium checks than they do now, even they won’t be paying outrageous amounts. Meanwhile, all of these consumers will have access to the kind of comprehensive benefits that are frequently unavaiable today, at any price, because of the way insurers try to avoid the old and the sick. 

[snip] On Thursday, officials and consumer advocates were talking about a very different kind of sticker shock: Premium bids that were lower than expected. “For plan after plan, we’re getting the best-case scenarios,” said Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California.

The reasons? Cohn points to a combo: insurers competitively pricing premiums to get new market shares; agencies in California having wide authority to keep offers competitive; and insurers actually playing ball for the purposes of making policy functional. I know, that last one’s crazy—we’re so used to wingnuts intentionally sabotaging policy for political gain we forgot that occasionally organizations make choices based on more than ideological self-immolation. Who knew?

Aaaaaaaaaand the kicker:

Unfortunately, millions of uninsured and under-insured Americans live in places like Florida and Texas, where there is far less sympathy—and a great deal more hostility—to the idea of Obamacare. It’s entirely possible that the insurance bids in those states will be a lot higher, precisely because state officials there are doing nothing to help and quite a bit to hurt implementation. But if that happens, blame won’t belong with the heath care law or the federal officials in charge of its management. It will belong with the state officials who can’t, or won’t, deliver to their constituents the benefits that California’s officials appear to be providing theirs.

On the bright side, if you apply for unemployment in Texas or Florida, you’ll get drug tested, so you got that going for you.