The Good Obamacare News That’s Been Flying Under DC’s Radar

US President Barack Obama G7 summit, Brussels, Belgium - 05 Jun 2014 (Rex Features via AP Images)
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As much as it consumed news headlines after its failed October launch, Obamacare has been conspicuously absent since it eclipsed 8 million sign-ups in April and open enrollment came to an end.

That might be because, instead of the bad news that lends credence to Republican doomsaying and captures media attention, most of the Obamacare news lately has been pretty encouraging about the law’s sustainability going into Year Two.

Dan Diamond at the research firm Advisory Board noted one of the most important trends as insurers prepare for enrollment in 2015: “In every state so far, more insurers are asking to participate in Obamacare.”

He included this handy chart from some of the states that have publicly released information:

As TPM noted back in March, what insurance companies choose to do after participating in or monitoring Obamacare’s first year should be one of the more telling signs about its long-term success. It’s important for a couple of reasons. First, more insurers should mean higher competition and lower prices. Second, though it’s a bit less tangible, is that insurers are going to be among the best judges of whether or not a market is working.

If private companies are betting their business on the market, that would suggest it is.

Larry Levitt, vice president at the non-profit and non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation, laid out some of the reasons on Twitter that more insurers should be good for markets and increasing enrollment. Here’s another one of them:

And there’s more. Early looks at 2015 premiums also have suggested that warnings about skyrocketing premiums might have been overblown. One of California’s biggest insurers, Anthem Blue Cross, announced last week that its premiums would increase by less than 10 percent on average. A (Cleveland) Plain Dealer analysis found that premiums for Ohio’s biggest insurers would see increases in the single-digits on average. The Wall Street Journal even located a Washington state insurer that was cutting its rates in 2015 from 2014.

Other tidbits — like uninsured rates being cut in half in states like Minnesota and Kentucky — have largely flown under the radar.

It’s not all rosy. Some insurance companies have reported that they’ll have significant premium increases in 2015 — though those aren’t yet final. The issue of provider networks for next year’s plans, which the Obama administration tried to address via administrative rules, is still outstanding. The Kaiser foundation’s Levitt also noted to TPM that significantly lower premiums caused by the new insurers, which could change how subsidies under the law are calculated, could cause disruptions for consumers if they receive financial help through the law.

But these headlines are another reminder that the existential questions that dogged Obamacare during its darkest days have all but evaporated. Now the challenging, but decidedly less sexy, work of implementing and improving is what remains.

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