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Adam Smith will trump politics on Obamacare

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The Republican Party is in danger of becoming a one-horse pony. Unfortunately, they are chasing one — “Obamacare” — that has left the barn and is generating so much momentum that it has become virtually impossible to stop without doing irreparable damage to the U.S. economy. There is even a new FreedomWorks campaign asking young adults to “burn your Obamacare draft card!”

As one health care industry official noted, “It unwittingly illustrates the desperation of hardcore Affordable Care Act (ACA) haters as they watch traditional GOP supporters in the business world embrace the law.”

The official said, “Even in red states like Texas and Oklahoma, health insurers are launching major enrollment marketing campaigns. They’ll soon be joined in those efforts by 8,000 Walgreen stores, vast numbers of hospitals and health care companies and state insurance exchanges.”

See also: States ramp up exchange marketing campaigns

On the same day that House Republicans voted for the 37th time to repeal Obamacare (or was it the 39th?), New York health regulators said Obamacare has reduced premiums in the state’s individual health care market. The New York Times said premiums are expected to be 50 percent lower under the plan.

Another example cited even by people close to the White House is that the National Association of Health Underwriters (NAHU), which represents insurance agents and brokers, will soon begin developing and administering a training program for health insurance brokers. According to NAHU, “Once brokers receive required training from NAHU, they will be able to assist consumers and small businesses with their health insurance needs through the D.C. Health Link. This new online health insurance marketplace is scheduled to open October 1, as mandated by the Affordable Care Act.”

There was also a recent report from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that states the cost of typical exchange plan rates are lower than expected. HHS analysts found the average cost of a silver plan in the individual market exchanges will be about 18 percent less than what HHS had estimated, based on early predictions from the Congressional Budget Office.

There, the administration estimated that the lowest-cost silver plan will be 18 percent less expensive in 2014, on average, than a comparable plan would cost if the pre-PPACA rules were still in effect. People are also discounting a new report by AFLAC that nearly half of America’s health insurance brokers say they are considering exiting the health insurance business altogether.

 And, in an op-ed piece in the Washington Post, Michael Leavitt, secretary of HHS, talked about his experience in running the Bush administration’s Medicare prescription drug benefit program. Leavitt — who was the first person approached by NAIC officials to replace Therese Vaughn as CEO — said the program is now considered “a tremendous success,” he said. “But in early 2006, there were days when I thought we could crash at any moment. For several weeks, the rollout of Medicare Part D felt like a runaway train — bumpy, uncomfortable, unnerving. Fortunately, the ride ended safely.”

 Leavitt said he opposes the ACA, and he still believes “big changes to the law are necessary. But I’m not hoping for a wreck. That outcome would hurt ordinary people, not just politicians.” In analyzing the stunning decision by Senate Republicans to allow the Obama administration nominees to be confirmed, the New York Times quoted several Republican hawks, “Each of them said how glad he was to get past this whole messy nominations thing so that they could get back to their preferred topic: Obamacare.”

It’s “a train wreck,” said Sens. John Thune, R-S.D. and John Cornyn, R-Texas. Thune and Cornyn’s comments about a government program were correct, but they were talking about the wrong debate. What they should have been referring to was the 2012 law reauthorizing the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and mandating that subscribers pay actuarial rates.

The entire Congress is convulsed as constituents twist them like a pretzel for their overwhelming support for legislation aimed at making the NFIP solvent. After all, shouldn’t the government subsidize the program closest to our hearts?

For more from Arthur D. Postal, see:

Insurers’ difficult road ahead

The state of the game

The road to comprehensive tax reform