Politics
President Barack Obama talks about the Affordable Care Act in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, Nov. 14. 2013. (REUTERS/Larry Downing) President Barack Obama talks about the Affordable Care Act in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, Nov. 14. 2013. (REUTERS/Larry Downing)  

Insurance companies protest Obama’s Obamacare fix

Photo of Neil Munro
Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

U.S. insurance companies are giving the stink-eye to President Barack Obama’s latest Obamacare fix, likely dooming it to failure.

The companies’ hostility is important because the president is trying to prevent swing-state Democratic politicians from fleeing his Obamacare project amid rising anger from middle-class, politically influential swing voters.

If they flee, the GOP gets a chance to rollback the Democrats’ power grab by pushing some free-market rules back into the health-care sector.

“Changing the rules after health plans have already met the requirements of the law could destabilize the market and result in higher premiums for consumers,” said a skeptical statement from America’s Health Insurance Plans, the trade association for health-insurance companies.

“This decision continues different rules for different policies and threatens to undermine the new market, and may lead to higher premiums and market disruptions in 2014 and beyond,” said a statement from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners

“This puts the insurance companies, who have successfully complied with the law, in a hell of a mess,” said Robert Laszewksi, a health-insurance consultant who echoes the views of insurance executives.

The insurance companies’ hostility is calculated, risky and important.

The major insurance companies have accepted the Obamacare system because it minimizes free-market competition, and provides them with steady and predictable profits in perpetuity. The only price they pay is that their executives are permanently subordinated to progressives and regulators.

Obama’s Nov. 14 fix temporarily threatens this cash-for-cooperation deal because the fix would cost them a lot of money.

It would cost them money because he wants them to let many healthy customers escape the high-cost Obamacare policies that are needed to fund the bank-breaking cost of providing Obamacare to sick, old and poor people.

There’s nothing in the law that gives the president the authority to make the companies provide pre-Obamacare, low-profit insurance services to healthy people. In fact, the president’s aides admit they don’t have the power to make the executives do what he’s asking them to do.

The fix is similar to his June 2012 decision to stop enforcing immigration law against younger illegal immigrants, a White House official said Thursday.

Under the so-called “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals,” announced in the run-up to the 2012 election, he provided residency cards and work-permits to at least 400,000 illegal immigrants, without any authority from Congress.

But the insurance executives can’t openly oppose the president’s supposed fix.

That’s because Obama and his political allies have a thousand political, legal and regulatory opportunities to retaliate against executives who openly oppose his Obamacare fix. For example, they’re already ramping up a P.R. campaign that pushes friendly media outlets to blame the Obamacare mess on the regulated insurance companies.

But the executives also have a thousand complicated ways to deflect, ignore and bypass Obama’s effort to make them offer pre-Obamacare insurance throughout 2014.

The progressives vs. executives fight is important because if Obama can’t rally the companies around the crippled Obamacare program, there’s a high risk that Democratic politicians will abandon the Obamacare program under pressure from angry voters.

Worse, there’s a growing risk that the 2014 election will give the GOP a majority in the House and Senate. so wrecking Obama’s second-term agenda and allowing the GOP to carefully dismantle Obamacare, which is the president’s primary first-term accomplishment.

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