Good news for health-insurance shoppers, bad news for Obamacare haters. For the 2015 enrollment period [which begins on November 15, 2014], healthcare shoppers will have more options. In state after state, more health insurance companies are getting on board and offering plans. In fact, HHS, which oversees the Affordable Care Act, reports that, nationwide, insurance-company participation in ACA exchanges is up an average of 25 percent.
Apparently, some companies who stayed on the sidelines in the first year of ACA enrollments, and who watched enrollment in ACA plans soar to cover 7.3 million people, have made the calculation that there’s money to be made in the ACA healthcare exchanges. So, they’re jumping in. And the not-so-invisible hand of the market is making a move.
According to CNBC:
77 new issuers will be joining insurers that sell plans in 43 states and the District of Columbia where data about insurance participation was available, HHS said. Those states include the 36 states whose residents bought plans on the federal Obamacare exchange HealthCare.gov, as well as eight states that are operating their own health exchanges.
HealthCare.gov will get the lion’s share of the new insurers: 57 more than this year, a 30 percent increase that will bring the tally up to 248 issuers.
As an example of the direction participation in ACA is taking, United Healthcare, one of the biggest health insurance companies in the U.S., is increasing the number of states in which it’s offering marketplace or exchange plans, from four states in 2014 to as many as 24 next year. Its CEO recently said:
…We plan to grow steadily from this point forward, advancing our participation in a measured manner in public exchanges in 2015, 2016 and beyond…The Congressional budget office estimates that more than 75% of the exchange market is yet to develop. And we believe there will likely be meaningful membership activity in the market after the initial experience of this year and as second year pricing is presented.”
Did you catch that? “More than 75% of the exchange market is yet to develop.” The health-insurance industry sees a huge upside in the ACA exchange market. [No surprise, of course, as the ACA was designed as a giveaway to private insurance companies, who stand to gain tremendously from it and are now positioning themselves to cash in to the max.]
So, for the “free-market” Republicans who have opposed the ACA [or, really, to support it covertly while using anti-Obamacare propaganda as a fundraising trigger], the jig is up. The market is speaking. And the market—that is to say, the health-insurance industry, which ponies up large batches of cash for candidates, in exchange for votes that hew to whatever is the current corporate line—has a very loud political megaphone.
So, lawmakers and candidates, with the news of more health insurance companies mining the ACA market for the gold that’s out there, it would be politically unwise to continue to oppose the Affordable Care Act. It’s making money for your corporate donors and for the lobbyists you work for. While we probably won’t see a total switcheroo, just yet, there are going to be a lot of politicians who suddenly go mum about the ACA—muzzled by their funders and their own political self-interest.
But don’t be surprised when, in a few years, when the Affordable Care Act is as entrenched as Medicare and Social Security, Republicans completely turn around and try to take credit for creating it.