I haven't seen South Dakota GOP Senate Candidate Mike Rounds' inaccuracy-riddled ad about how Obamacare (The Affordable Care Act--ACA) will wreck Medicare of late. Its pitch was meant to scare the bejeebers out of seniors by telling them that The Affordable Care Act would financially gut Medicare and leave oldsters in the lurch when it came to promised benefits being reduced because of changes in Medicare Advantage. Of course, this notion was exposed early and often for the political hype that it is. Even tougher for his campaign, Rounds' hit job on ACA was made to look even more foolish when he lied about his involvement in implementing Obamacare right here in South Dakota. With good reason, those ads have disappeared and been replaced by a series of heartfelt blurbs by South Dakotans praising Rounds to the highest of political heavens as just the common-sensical, level-headed man we need representing the state in the U.S. Senate. One member of his claque even claims that the state was in better financial shape when he left office than when he assumed it.
Oooo-kay. I'll set that canard aside for another post, but I'm still intrigued by the GOP's preoccupation with dumping the ACA. The party's rhetoric is still festooned with ACA-hatred and the promise to repeal it, so I wouldn't be surprised if the Rounds campaign took up this foolish notion again at some point during the campaign. I imagine that disdaining a program that he had a hand in mid-wifing is the glitch that might be silencing Rounds on the issue for now--but in general, Rounds should drop that whole idea like a bad habit, and I mean pronto. It's going nowhere.
Fact is, that holiest of Republican grails, the free market, is telling us that not only is ACA here to stay--it's likely to grow substantially in 2015. None too surprisingly, insurance companies around the country, including South Dakota's Blue Cross provider Wellmark, are planning to enter the public exchanges created by ACA in every state. Over the weekend, The New York Times published a piece about this, noting in its lead that "In a sign of the growing potential under the federal health care law, several insurers that have been sitting on the sidelines say they will sell policies on the new exchanges in the coming year, and others plan to expand their offerings to more states."
This is the surest indication of one thing: there's money to be made by selling insurance on ACA's public exchanges. This is a watershed moment to the extent that insurers have been circumspect about entering markets through those exchanges because nobody had a sense of how the public would take to them. It looks like this year's 8 million enrollees will expand by another 13 million in 2015. The market has spoken, and Republicans should be respecting that fact, not fighting it.
Even the oft-repeated GOP mantra that ACA will cause rates to skyrocket next year is being challenged by analysts. I think it's reasonable to expect a more crowded field of public exchange competitors to have just the opposite effect, with increases to slow substantially from their torrid paces of recent years. Public exchanges are likely to grow and see more competition just because they provide an efficient means of buying insurance. A long-time professional in the industry (sorry, no names, no genders) tells me that "most uninsured people do not have health insurance because they can not afford it, not because they don't want it. Those that qualify for a subsidy can receive it only through an exchange. However, as the law becomes more understood, many people with current individual policies will use the exchange if they are subsidy eligible. And many people who are on their company policies will learn that having a Human Resources person 6 states away determining their benefits and premiums is now just stupid. They can use the exchange for 'one stop shopping,' subsidy eligible or not."
This is why I think Republicans are fighting a losing battle in their anti-ACA campaign. Market forces are stronger than political forces. Republicans should just accept that. You see how badly Mike Rounds tied himself up in knots with his hapless campaign against ACA. I think it will be a party-wide disaster if Pubs continue beating on this dead horse.