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Blame Game Over Obamacare's 2018 Premium Surge Reaches Feverish Pitch, Will It Matter In 2018?

As Americans head to the exchanges to purchase their Obamacare plans for 2018, many are experiencing a bit of sticker shock.  As the Wall Street Journal points out this morning, folks in Deaf Smith, Texas can expect their premiums to surge 87% next year while those in Clinton, Iowa are looking at a sickening increase of 171%, with monthly premiums surging from $288 to $781.

In Deaf Smith, Texas, for example, a 40-year old single individual who earns too much for federal aid will see premiums jump 87%—from about $290 to $540—according to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of prices for a popular, midprice health plan. Only people who make less than 400% of the poverty level—about $48,000 in most states this year—are eligible for federal aid.

 

In Clinton, Iowa, premiums will rise from $288 to $781, an increase of 171%, for the same plan.

 

“There is unquestionably a growing divide in affordability between lower-income people who qualify for premium subsidies and middle-income people who do not,” said Larry Levitt, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

 

AnnMarie McIlwain, a patient advocate in Summit, N.J., pays $1,087 a month for a family policy, and her premiums next year are going up 39%. With their deductible, the family’s annual health costs could surpass $20,000.

 

“I find it outrageous. I think there’s going to be a huge outcry,” said Mrs. McIIwain, 56. “They have gone up year over year, but never like this.”

Meanwhile, one customer in North Carolina apparently received this charming letter from Blue Cross and Blue Shield letting him know that, while his prior year healthcare plan had been cancelled, he could easily signup for a new "comparable" plan for a mere 300% more.

Of course, with mid-term elections just around the corner, Democrats are eagerly looking to pin the 2018 premium surge on Trump's decision to defund Obamacare's marketing budget and cut subsidies payments for insurers.  The question is, after years of similar premium increases, will voters buy that it's suddenly Trump's fault as opposed to just a continuation of the death spiral that started long before he moved into the White House?

According to the WSJ, the answer to the question above was likely just answered by Virginia voters.

Tuesday’s election results suggest the politics of health care may be tilting against Republicans for the first time in years. Democrats have long paid a political price for the ACA’s unpopularity, losing elections since 2010 after the law was passed through last year, when the health law’s problems factored heavily into the Republican message.

 

But this week, Virginia voters cited health care in exit polls as an important reason for delivering the governorship to Democrat Ralph Northam, while a ballot initiative in Maine to expand the state’s Medicaid program won decisively. That follows the GOP’s failure to repeal the ACA and low public approval for the alternatives it offered.

 

If those developments signal a broader shift in the landscape, it could have a big impact on the 2018 midterm elections, where all seats in the House and a third in the Senate are up for grabs. Adding an unpredictable element to the mix, many voters in states that supported Mr. Trump will face some of the biggest increases.

 

According to an October poll by The Wall Street Journal and NBC News, 50% of Americans would blame Republicans if health-care costs rise and people lose coverage, while 37% would blame Democrats.

Of course, this is a perfectly logical conclusion for voters to draw...if they choose to ignore the fact that Obamacare's 2018 premium increases are not some new phenomenon that started once Trump took office, but rather just a continuation of a devastating trend that has been ongoing since 2013.

Of course, logic rarely plays a critical role in politics so we're sure the data above will be promptly overlooked.

Meanwhile, somewhere in Chicago: