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ACA Agonistes
How Obamacare Could Tip the Senate to the GOP

Received wisdom on the left about Obamacare’s political future goes like this: since the website fiasco has calmed down and the law has gone into effect, the ACA has already or will soon become so ingrained into Americans’ lives that it will cease to be a live political issue. Maybe someday, but apparently not yet, according to Politico. The law has become a particularly salient campaign issue in the states where it could matter the most for this year’s Senate elections. Eight states will see insurers raise their premiums by double digits this year, and many of those eight states have close Senate races. In a year when the GOP looks poised to retake the Senate (albeit narrowly), those states could be key to the Senate’s composition. More:

Double-digit rate hikes for individual health insurance plans have become an issue in the Louisiana and Iowa Senate races over the past week, where the Republican candidates are hammering their Democratic opponents for the steep premium increases on the way next year for some customers under the Affordable Care Act.

“In general, the premium increases have been pretty modest. But there are exceptions, and the exceptions happen to be in states with competitive races,” said Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Family Foundation, who has studied the premium trends around the country.

If Obamacare helps the GOP to win key states in an overall Senate capture, that might solidify the party’s commitment to doing something about the ACA, keeping the law alive as a political issue. But if they do take up the ACA, they should take note of the rhetoric Levitt uses. By “modest” increases, Levitt means increases equal to the average rate pre-ACA. But that qualification is itself problematic, given that increases before the law were already taking bigger and bigger chucks out of the average American’s paycheck. Lawmakers drew on concern over the cost of health care in talking up the ACA in the first place (hence, the “Affordable” in “ACA”), but that problem clearly remains unsolved for many Americans. To note that rates haven’t skyrocketed is clearly shifting the goalposts for a law that was supposed to make health care more affordable.

A Republican Senate reenergized about health care issue should focus on this fact. The problem with the ACA isn’t isolated rate spikes, but the political establishment’s broader failure to advance a comprehensive policy framework for lowering the cost of care. Addressing that failure may not necessarily require repealing the ACA, but it will require learning from successes both in U.S. states and abroad to finally do what the American people have wanted all along: make health care cost less.

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  • MartyH

    Of course, consumers cannot see what their rates actually are on the exchange until Nov 15th (conveniently after the election), and the government has placed a gag order on anyone involved in testing the new ACA website and software. This from the self proclaimed “most transparent administration ever.” They’re transparent alright-anyone with half a brain can see right through them. Every statement and decision is driven by optics, and pushing any negative news or consequences out until after elections.

  • Corlyss

    It’s not just the Obamacare issue. It’s a whole panoply of security issues, all traceable to urged policies of the feckless amateur in the WH, up to and including his position on how to spare the nation (assuming he wants to) from the low-level predictable consequences of his stupid policy on not blocking immigration from ebola nations.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    Obamacare will never make healthcare more affordable, competent, or available. Only the free market has the “Feedback of Competition” which forces continuous improvements in Quality, Service, and Price. The Government Monopoly and even the more limited employer paid for health insurers monopolies will ever be capable of improving the Quality, Service, or Price of healthcare.

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