House Republicans spent Wednesday morning grilling insurance industry executives in a follow-up to their now-thoroughly debunked study on how many Obamacare enrollees have paid their premiums.
The testimony of the executives had already rebutted the GOP’s earlier finding that only 67 percent of enrollees had actually paid so far. So the lawmakers went fishing for any other bad news that might be out there. They once again came up empty.
Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA), chair of the subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee that hosted the hearing, opened the questioning with what seemed like a laundry list of potential problem spots for the health care law.
Are people going to paying higher premiums in 2015?
“I can’t say for certain,” one of the executives replied. “I don’t have the exact numbers yet,” another said.
Do you know if your enrollees are paying more for insurance now under Obamacare? Do you know how many had their previous health plan canceled?
“We currently do not have that data,” one of the witnesses said.
A little while later, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), one of the more outspoken Obamacare critics in Congress, got audibly flustered as she continued to press insurers to reveal their business plans in front of their competitors, pressing the witnesses to give some indication of what Obamacare’s 2015 premiums will be.
“At this point, we can’t offer any guidance on where they’re going to fall,” Paul Wingle, a top executive at Aetna, told Blackburn.
“At this juncture, we do not have that information,” another witness said.
“A lot of uncertainty floating around up there,” Blackburn quipped. She then implored the witnesses to offer anything — even some kind of preliminary guess that might have been given to their top officials — of what was going to happen with the next year’s premiums.
“Have any of you conducted any interim analysis of what your organization’s premiums are going to look like?” she said. She asked for a show of hands. No witnesses volunteered.
“You have done no internal analysis on what the trend line is for these premiums? None?” Blackburn said, clearly exasperated. “It is baffling that we could have some of our nation’s largest insurers, and you all don’t have any internal analysis of what these rates are going to be.”
It was the hearing analogue of the GOP’s fruitless pursuit of its “how many Obamacare enrollees were previously uninsured?” talking point in the survey itself. The committee released no results on those findings — probably because insurance industry sources told TPM that companies haven’t been collecting the data.
The best talking point that Republicans got out of the hearing? Insurance companies still aren’t totally satisfied with how the back-end of HealthCare.gov is working. “We still have opportunities for improvement,” as one witness said.