Want to know what’s wrong with politics in America? Look no further than Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer’s verbal jujitsu in an attempt to un-tell the truth.
In an interview that aired on Thursday Schumer, one of the ideological heavyweights in the Democratic party, said “our insurance department is empowered to protect families and we’re going to watch them like a hawk to make sure they do, because if they don’t, these rates could go through the roof.”
“Is it because of Obamacare?” the reporter asked.
“It’s in part because of Obamacare,” admitted Schumer. “But health care costs have been going up by double digits for years and years.”
Like Sen. Max Baucus’ warnings a month prior that Obamacare could be a “train wreck” unless the serious problems with implementing the bill were resolved, Sen. Schumer’s comments were a refreshing breath of fresh air. Here was a politician that let down his partisan guard long enough to speak the truth. And truth in Washington is rarer, and more valuable, than gold.
At this point it is an indisputable fact that Obamacare will increase premiums. The higher level of benefits required by the law will inevitably drive up the cost of insurance. Banning insurer’s ability to price risk would cause an inexorable shift in costs from sicker patients to healthier ones. Nowhere is that more true than the age-rating provisions that prohibit insurers from charging older, sicker patients more than a set percentage higher than younger, healthier ones. And because there is a small penalty for not having insurance, there is a significant incentive to wait until you are sick to purchase coverage.
Those and other factors caused the American Society of Actuaries, who know a thing or two about crunching numbers, to warn that Obamacare would cause a 32 percent average spike in claims, with some states much higher than that. For instance, the report concluded that by 2017, the estimated increase would be 62 percent for California, 80 percent in Ohio and 67 percent in Maryland.
As a prominent Democrat, Schumer had the opportunity to shed light on this potential rate shock and what needs to be done to avert it. He had the opportunity to break the partisan logjam and get the ball rolling on real, free-market reforms that would actually have a chance to bend the cost curve. Instead, in true Washington form, he attempted to walk back the truth.
“The rise in healthcare premiums is market-driven and predates Obamacare,” Schumer said in a statement provided to Talking Points Memo. “The fact is, the law is already working to significant slow that rise, and ensure a higher quality of care to boot.”
Schumer’s spokesman, Brian Fallon, continued to do damage control. He told TPM that the senator did not intend to blame Obamacare for the coming rise in health insurance premiums. “That is not what he meant,” Fallon said.
Of course that’s what he meant! Obamacare is going to increase premiums. Why else would a group of health care advocates and Obamacare supporters be pushing for an entirely new bill to control costs? The answer is that Obama’s “reforms” are aimed mostly at expanding coverage through top-down mandates, but provide few mechanisms for actually reducing the cost of care.
Schumer provided a welcome glimpse into the truth about Obamacare. How sad that in today’s Washington that is considered a gaffe that requires a follow-up statement that for all intents and purposes said, “Sorry about telling the truth yesterday, please ignore that and allow me to resume telling half-truths and outright lies to protect the Democratic Party.” Sigh.