Health insurers applying to participate in Obamacare are disappearing

By the way, how are things going with Obamacare these days? It’s an important question because the GOP’s efforts to repeal and/or replace it seem to be going about as well as Napoleon invading Russia at this point. So if we might be stuck with this decrepit boondoggle for the foreseeable future we should probably be keeping tabs on it.

Well… not so great, really. As the Free Beacon reports this week, the number of health insurers who are signing up to take part in the exchanges continues to plummet. And there are no signs of relief on the horizon.

The number of health insurers applying to participate in the Obamacare exchanges has declined 38 percent since last year, according to data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Last year, there were 227 individual market qualified health plan insurers who submitted an application to offer coverage on the Affordable Care Act exchanges. This year, that number declined to 141, a drop of 86 insurers or 38 percent.

There is even a bigger decline from 2016 when there were 281 health insurers who applied, representing a 50 percent decrease.

We’re currently on track to have nearly fifty counties where there will be zero, zilch, none, nada health insurers participating in Obamacare. Another roughly 1,300 will only have a single option offered. So for all of you who managed to stay awake for at least part of your Capitalism 101 class, which direction do you expect insurance premium prices to go when there is absolutely no competition? If you said “down” you may want to run for election in your next Democratic primary race because you are obviously uniquely qualified.

I still periodically see commenters around the social media campfire arguing that this might be a cloud with a silver lining. The argument goes something along the lines of simply allowing Obamacare to fully implode while the GOP congressional majority does nothing and then swoop in to replace it once it’s proven itself to be a failure. But I don’t buy that line of argument. Had it happened under a Democratic president leading a majority in at least one chamber of Congress then… sure. The failure would be evident and even the most stubborn efforts of the national media couldn’t deflect the blame and satisfy any voters with at least a room temperature IQ.

But that’s not the case today. The GOP is in charge and there’s an old saying about the captain of the ship when it hits an iceberg. Obamacare defenders are already promoting the idea that insurers are not signing up because Trump was saying the program was being cut off. And if the system has problems, it’s very easy (and I’m sorry to say, true) to proclaim that it’s the job of the President and the congressional majority to fix them. If this ship goes down now it’s taking the GOP with it no matter how it was cooked up in the first place.

And what rises from the ashes if that happens? If the GOP can’t come up with a new plan that can somehow be passed, you’re opening the door to single payer. And at that point we may as well hand over global leadership in medical technology to the Chinese or whoever else can afford it. That’s just some food for thought for Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan. Right now you’re on track to do nothing, but to borrow an old line from NASA, failure truly isn’t an option anymore.