This is an excellent editorial piece from the Wall Street Journal discussing the surprise announcement that Aetna, one of the leading insurers in this country, was withdrawing from the vast majority of Obamacare exchanges. But instead of sitting up and seriously considering this massive defection as a wake-up call (unlike all the previous failures), the Democrats want to blame Aetna itself in order to safeguard the narrative that Obamacare is working perfectly well. I have reproduced the piece in its entirety below; it’s worth the read.
“Democrats claimed for years that ObamaCare is working splendidly, though anybody acquainted with reality could see the entitlement is dysfunctional. Now as the law breaks down in an election year, they’ve decided to blame private insurers for their own failures.
Their target this week is Aetna, which has announced it is withdrawing two-thirds of its ObamaCare coverage, pulling out of 536 of 778 counties where it does business. The third-largest U.S. insurer has lost about $430 million on the exchanges since 2014, and this carnage is typical. More than 40 other companies are also fleeing ObamaCare.
The mass exodus will leave consumers consigned to the exchanges with surging premiums and fewer options, but don’t mention these victims to Democrats. They’re trying to change the subject by claiming Aetna is retaliating because the Justice Department is trying to block Aetna’s $37 billion acquisition of Humana.
The 2010 ObamaCare law makes it nearly impossible for non-mega insurers to operate, and a tide of regulations has encouraged consolidation. Aetna says the Humana tie-up will create economies of scale that could sustain the money-losing exchange policies.
But Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is now emoting on Facebook that “The health of the American people should not be used as bargaining chips to force the government to bend to one giant company’s will.” This week the Administration also released a July 5 letter from Aetna in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. Democrats claim the document shows CEO Mark Bertolini conditioning Aetna’s ObamaCare cooperation on merger approval.
This is some gall. Aetna was answering a June 28 “civil investigative demand,” in which Justice’s antitrust division specifically asked how blocking the merger would “affect Aetna’s business strategy and operations, including Aetna’s participation of the public exchanges related to the Affordable Care Act.”
Soliciting sensitive internal information that Aetna is legally compelled to provide—and then making it public to sandbag the company—is the behavior of political plumbers, not allegedly impartial technocrats. If police tried this, it’d be entrapment.
Mr. Bertolini had merely replied that the legal costs of an antitrust suit would strain Aetna’s performance. The insurer would have “no choice but to take actions to steward its financial health” and “face market realities,” such as reducing unprofitable business. Public companies have a responsibility to shareholders, and the wonder is that any insurer is still part of the exchanges.
ObamaCare’s troubles aren’t the result of any business decision. The entire industry is caught in the law’s structural undertow. Despite subsidies, overall enrollment is flat, there’s too much monthly churn, and the exchanges aren’t attracting enough healthy people to make the economics work.
Blame the law’s architects, not Mr. Bertolini, who must wonder what happened to the political goodwill he has tried to bank over the years. Aetna was inclined to accept the exchanges as loss leaders to support ObamaCare’s mission of universal coverage. The company led ObamaCare’s industry pep squad in 2009 and 2010.
The calculation then was that subsidies would open a new market, and consumers would be mandated to buy their products. But in the final frenzy to pass the law, Democrats decided that insurers made too much money and they imposed price controls on profit margins. Now insurers are accused of declining to throw away more money.
The ObamaCare implosion means that about a quarter of U.S. counties will have only one or two plans, and in some zero. Areas in Arizona, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Texas seem to be hardest hit, though the extent of the damage is still emerging.
Democrats figure they have insurers over a barrel because a Hillary Clinton Presidency is coming. She’s running on higher subsidies for beneficiaries, a taxpayer bailout for the industry, and a “public option” akin to Medicare for the middle class. In health care the solution to a problem caused by government is always more government, which will create new problems and beget more government.
Republicans have no obligation to participate. They had no hand in creating this mess and they’ve been mocked by Democrats and the media for years for warning about ObamaCare’s flaws and trying to repeal and replace the law. Assuming the GOP holds at least the House, they should insist that any “fixes”—which are fast becoming inevitable—create a rational health-care market. Democrats deserve to be held accountable for the collapse of their ideas.”