(WALL STREET JOURNAL) — Hillary Clinton admits she’s running to extend the Obama legacy, and so far she’s had a free ride in defending it. She hasn’t even had to explain the increasingly obvious failures of ObamaCare to deliver the affordable insurance that Democrats promised.
The Affordable Care Act is now rolling into its fourth year, and even liberals are starting to concede that the insurance exchanges are in distress and Congress may have to reopen the law. Premiums are high and soaring; insurers have booked multimillion-dollar losses and are terminating plans; and the customer pool is smaller, older and less healthy than the official projections.
The natural result is another round of rate shock for 2017. Insurers in 49 states have submitted their premium requests to regulators, and the average “enrollment-weighted” rate increase, which accounts for market share, is in the range of 18% to 23%. The Congressional Budget Office projected 8%.
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Liberals call this evidence anecdotal and premature, and they’re right that bad anecdotes are easy to find: Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania, a model of the integrated care that ObamaCare attempts to promote, wants a 40% rate increase for its insurance arm. The other liberal claim is that insurance commissioners will approve rate increases somewhat smaller than the insurer requests (maybe) and that consumers can switch to cheaper plans (assuming any are left).
But consider New York, which last Friday became the second state to finalize rates for 2017. The 19.3% rate increase the insurers requested on average for the individual market came down to 16.6% after regulatory fly-specking. The New York political class is hailing this as a great victory, but overall health-care costs aren’t rising by near 16%, and middle-class incomes aren’t either.