I guess all the flacks in the vast Obama administration public relations apparatus are at the beach. What else would explain this inelegant quote from Robert Pear's story today in the New York Times?
The article is ostensibly about the review process that state insurance officials use to approve or disapprove annual premium increases under Obamacare. The real news—reported previously, but it can't be repeated often enough—is that the Rube Goldberg mechanisms of Obamacare are sending insurance premiums into the stratosphere. Pennsylvanians are looking at a 41 percent increase for 2017. In Kentucky, Humana customers will see rates rise 31 percent next year. Blue Cross in Montana seeks a 62 percent increase. Even in Connecticut, deemed one of the great successes of the Affordable Care Act, consumers will likely see rate increases rise more than 20 percent.
Needless to say, this was not what the administration and the law's congressional sausage grinders led us to expect. As recently as last October, they were assuring the public that the cost of the average health insurance plan would rise only 7.5 percent this year.
Normally, with a reporter as good as Robert Pear and an outlet as prominent as the New York Times, the story would feature an exculpatory comment from a high-ranking administration official—maybe even Josh Earnest himself! But it's summertime. Evidently Pear's request for comment bounced all the way down from the White House into the deepest folds of the Department of Health and Human Services, down where the economists dwell. Here's what Pear found:
Aviva Aron-Dine, an economist at the federal Department of Health and Human Services, said predictable factors were behind the upward pressure on rates. For example, the federal government is ending a program that helped pay some of the largest claims incurred by insurers. In addition, Ms. Aron-Dine said, some insurers may be trying to make up for having initially set premiums too low. In any event, she said, most people buying insurance on the exchanges receive subsidies.
It's a wonderful thing to behold, this comment, so full of insouciance and inadvertent truth. Josh Earnest would never be guilty of such virtues.
First, Ms. Aron-Dine waves away the bad news altogether. The whole thing, she announces, was predictable. So calm down.
But what about the fact that the government did not, in fact, predict the outrageous increases? She said calm down.
Second, the reason rates haven't gone through the roof already is that the government has been paying off the insurance companies so they wouldn't raise rates. Now the government isn't going to be doing that anymore. So what the hell did you expect?
Third, these insurance companies messed up. They set their rates too low in the first place. They failed to predict the vast increases in cost that would be caused by Obamacare, which, the administration promised, would lower costs.
Here Ms. Aron-Dine is employing a variation of Otter's famous non-apology from Animal House: "Hey, you f----d up. You trusted us."
But she saves the best for last, in a comment that summarizes the Democratic party's entire approach to public policy: "In any event, she said, most people buying insurance on the exchanges receive subsidies."
In other words, most consumers won't be bothered by the scary increases in costs because they're not paying for them anyway! The question of who truly is paying for them—a federal government that's already broke, financed by taxpayers—is evidently a question that Obamacare economists are not bound to consider.
The final, delicious irony about Ms. Aron-Dine's comment is that it's not even true: about 50 percent of the consumers getting Obamacare insurance receive no premium subsidies. These are the ones who will feel the direct impact of the increases, good and hard.
Silly, oblivious, and partly untrue, all at the same time: Obamacare has found its perfect explainer.