Last Friday your humble correspondent noted the absence of Sarah Kliff on the topic of ObamaCare and now he is unhumble enough to believe that this put pressure on her to return to that painful topic today at Vox after nearly a month of avoiding it. As you can read, poor Sarah seems to have gone from acting like a cheerleader aboard a sinking Titanic to taking on the role of radio reporter Herbert Morrison breathlessly reporting on the crashing Hindenburg:
No matter how you slice the numbers, Obamacare premiums will rise significantly next year. The Obama administration estimates rates will rise 7.5 percent in 2016, compared with 2 percent in 2015.
Insurance markets are complicated. But the story of Obamacare's 2016 premium increase is actually pretty simple: Many health plans — even those with decades of experience selling insurance — underestimated how sick health law enrollees would be.
This meant that in 2014, many insurers spent more paying out medical bills than members paid in premiums. Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska lost $9 million covering just under 8,000 Obamacare enrollees that year. In Colorado, Rocky Mountain HMO found medical bills to be about 36 percent higher than premiums.
Now insurers are raising their rates to make sure premiums do cover claims. In some states, that means double-digit rate hikes.
Oh the humanity! No mention by Kliff of the crashing co-ops I referenced on Friday but she does focus on the soaring premiums to the point where she now sounds like (dare I say it?) one of those "narrow-minded right-wing" ObamaCare critics of a few years ago who were warning about what she is now describing.
And now Kliff brings up a nonperson blast from the past:
"We were excited at how it went in the beginning, but realistically, rates coming in so far below projections was not sustainable," says Jonathan Gruber, an economist at MIT who advised the Obama administration on the health law. "I don't think it's a crisis, but higher premiums are going to deter enrollment to some extent."
You might say that Gruber advised the Obama administration on the health care law but that same administration now claims it barely knew him. Jonathan Gruber? Who? And former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she never knew him. Could it have something to do with this video in which Gruber talks about the lack of transparency of the bill and the stupidity of the American voter which allowed ObamaCare to pass?
How about a Gruber encore, Sarah?
"I think that higher prices might lower enrollment just a little bit," says Gruber. At the same time, he points out that the penalty for not carrying insurance will rise in 2016 to $695 or 2.5 percent of income, whichever is greater, which should create a stronger incentive to stay covered.
Or it could create a stronger incentive to vote against the Democrats in an election year when angry taxpayers start discovering those big fines they have to pay when they begin filing their tax returns in a few weeks. And, of course, Sarah Kliff will have to face the prospect of one P.J. Gladnick covering her covering that anger against ObamaCare when a certain substance hits the fan.