President Obama may have meant for his signature healthcare legislation to last, or he may have intended it to fail and pave the way for a universal, federally-funded healthcare system. Either way, the latest reports show that Obamacare could be headed for oblivion, regardless of who takes the Oval Office next January.
This year’s round of Obamacare enrollments will begin the first week of November, and the numbers should give us a fairly potent understanding of where the Affordable Care Act is going. The core problem with Obama’s system is that he’s not been able to get the young and the healthy interested in signing up. Since this burdens the insurance companies with a roster of ill patients, even dramatic premium hikes aren’t enough to keep the profits coming in. And Obama’s risk corridor protections have utterly failed, leaving insurance companies with no other choice but to consider leaving the exchanges. Some of them already have, and others intend to if things don’t turn around.
UnitedHealth Group, Aetna, and Anthem are three of the biggest insurance companies who have signaled their departure from the Obamacare expansion plans. Those companies alone won’t undermine the foundational strength of the system, but they could be an omen of things to come. If we see more premium hikes like the ones we’ve seen in some states, these insurance plans will be virtually unaffordable for the very people they are intended to insure. That’s the death spiral, and it remains to be seen if it can be avoided.
In the meantime, it’s up to Republicans to get very clear about a replacement and very clear about the mechanics of that replacement. This is no longer about ending the president’s healthcare plan; we’re now nearing the point where that conclusion is inevitable. The focus now needs to be on the millions of enrollees who will be caught in a dangerous limbo if the transition isn’t handled correctly. The focus needs to be on presenting a system that’s not just better than Obamacare, but is handled better as well.
That really shouldn’t be hard to do, considering.