Insurers getting pretty nervous about pending ObamaCare rate increases

As President Obama made supremely sure we were all aware with his in-your-face announcement pronouncement on Tuesday, a last-minute spurt of interest gave the administration just enough juice to claim that ObamaCare had reached the “7 million” signups figure they initially offered as their goal (even though it could very well be something more along the lines of maybe 6 million, but whatevs) — and certain Democrats, at least publicly, are taking the almost meaningless total a win. As the NYT puts it, “it’s far too early to say a political turnaround is at hand” [no kidding], “but for the first time this election year, Democrats are evincing some confidence that they have at least stanched the bleeding”:

“It’s changing. If you’ve been around awhile, and I’ve been around awhile, you can sense it,” said Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate. “You’re not going to turn away seven or 10 million people from insurance coverage — doesn’t work anymore. And then comes Ryan. Thank you, thank you Congressman Paul Ryan, for reminding us what Republicans would do if they had control.” …

“Even though the Democrats are trying to take some victory lap, it’s very short term,” said Senator John Thune of South Dakota, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference. “The bad news continues. The hits keep coming.”

But for the first time in a while, Democrats this week found themselves talking up a contrast between their agenda — protecting the newly insured, raising the minimum wage and renewing unemployment benefits — and a Republican plan that would cut health care and education spending deeply, and move Medicare toward private insurance.

True that Democrats now have the “7 million” and counting enrolled in the program to ‘protect’ (although how many of those are actually “newly insured” is a crucial question that remains to be seen), and the NYT posits that “this spring at least should be a respite” for Democrats — but I do not know about that at all. Sure, the program is now sufficiently installed, but the program is still pretty deeply unpopular and now the administration actually has to run the damn thing. As Sen. Thune put it, the hits just keep on coming; Reuters reports on still more news about insurers, for instance, getting increasingly antzy about the premiums that they expect to rise by double-digit percentages in some parts of the country over the next couple of years, just to keep their operations above water:

As the first Obamacare enrollment period comes to a close, U.S. insurers are already anticipating the need to raise prices for 2015 and fear that it will put them at the center of the political blame game over President Barack Obama’s healthcare law. …

But insurers have already said that the first group of new enrollees under Obamacare, as the law is widely known, represent a higher rate of older and costlier members than hoped. …

“I do think that it’s likely premium rate shocks are coming. I think they begin to make themselves at least partially known in 2015 and fully known in 2016,” said Chet Burrell, chief executive officer of CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield. “That will be different in different parts of the country. I don’t think it will be uniformly the same.”

“Do the premiums need to rise, just to cover the cost, to such a level that it creates both political heat, regulatory heat, finger-pointing, accusation?” Burrell said at the Reuters Health Summit in Washington on Tuesday. “If that happened, then the environment becomes very difficult and it doesn’t in a sense matter that you worked out all the details. You’re at each others’ throats because it just costs so much.”

Certain Democrats might think they’re in for an easier time for a spell, but tell that to the vulnerable red-state Democrats trying not to panic over the whole boondoggle right now. [And, sidebar: Uhm, did insurers not deduce that they would most definitely be “at the center of the political blame game” when they got into this mess?]