Premium Increases, Possible Repeal Next Crises for Obamacare

Image: Premium Increases, Possible Repeal Next Crises for Obamacare Kathleen Sebelius speaks to the media as people sign up for Obamacare at Mount Sinai Missionary Baptist Church in Miami on March 29.

Monday, 31 Mar 2014 09:27 AM

By Melanie Batley

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The deadline for Obamacare enrollment arrived Monday, heralding a new set of problems for Democrats supporting the troubled healthcare law, including premium increases for 2015 and the possibility of ultimate repeal if the GOP takes control of the Senate in November.

In the final weekend of enrollment, chaos ensued in the rush by late-comers to get coverage in time. HealthCare.gov was marred with major technological problems potentially affecting as many as the 2 million people who visited, while other consumers were thwarted due to severe shortages of support staff and long waits through the call centers and at enrollment offices, The Wall Street Journal reported.

"We've been overwhelmed," a spokeswoman for a Maryland service center told a crowd, according to the Journal. "Go home. We'll call you back," she said after workers collected phone numbers and email addresses that would allow consumers in line to secure enrollment in April without penalty in accordance with the president's last-minute announcement of an extension.

The Obama administration is claiming victory for the program, announcing last week that 6 million people had enrolled. But according to The Washington Post, the healthcare law will face serious political, financial, and legal challenges in the coming months that could ultimately determine its survival.

The threat of significant premium increases next year is at the top of the list of concerns. Some insurance industry experts predict double-digit increases in premiums in some states for next year, varying by the health plan and location, according to the Post.

Many plans "low-balled" prices for 2014 to attract customers, and while some plans may continue to keep rates low to build market share, others will probably raise prices to boost profits or compensate for the costs of participating in the new law.

"It's like opening day at the hardware store, and you're going to have a special," Joseph Antos, a health policy analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, told the Post.

Analysts say it's unclear just how much premiums will increase, how widespread the increases will be, and how many consumers will be affected, but it will be just one of the elements driving a possible backlash for Democrats at the ballot box.

Throughout the 2014 campaign season, Republicans intend to capitalize on the shortcomings of Obamacare, and if the GOP is successful in winning control of Congress, the law could ultimately be dismantled.

The fines that will be imposed on those who failed to enroll by the deadline this year will also not be popular among the millions of voters affected, according to the Post.

"Obamacare is a vehicle that drives home a bigger problem Democrats have with voters: Either they didn't understand the law that they championed, which makes them inept, or they blatantly lied about what this law would do, which makes them dishonest," Brad Dayspring, a National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman, told the Post.

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