Obamacare Is Enjoying a Politically Inconvenient Enrollment Spike

Even as Republicans promise them liberation from Obamacare, Americans keep signing up. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Looking anxiously at the dark landscape of tyranny and waste they see in the operation of the Affordable Care Act, Republicans at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue are planning to rescue the American people by repealing the odious law as their first major order of business next year.

There’s a problem, though: The Obamacare exchanges for purchasing private individual health insurance policies, in the midst of a “death spiral” of rising premiums and departing insurers and consumers, is enjoying an enrollment spike for 2017, with just over a month left to sign up. Robert Pear has the numbers:

About 6.4 million people have signed up for health insurance next year under the Affordable Care Act, the Obama administration said Wednesday, as people rushed to purchase plans regardless of Republican promises that the law will be repealed within months.

The new sign-ups — an increase of 400,000 over a similar point last year — mean the health care coverage of millions of consumers could be imperiled by one of the first legislative actions of Donald J. Trump’s presidency. Hundreds of thousands of other people who took no action will be automatically re-enrolled by the federal government in the same or similar plans, officials said, and their coverage could be threatened as well. Consumers still have until the end of January to enroll.

The political inconvenience of a booming market for Obamacare coverage is obvious, particularly at a time when Republicans are trying to figure out how to thrill conservatives with a repeal of the law while delaying the effective date long enough to avoid throwing tens of millions of people out of their health insurance. House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office is downright grouchy about the news:

“This disaster of a law has led to massive premium spikes, less choice for patients and a collapse of the exchange markets, and no amount of spinning from the White House can hide this ugly reality,” AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, said Wednesday.

I don’t think it’s the White House doing the spinning here.

There has been quite a bit of talk since Election Day about the nasty surprise a lot of Trump voters may receive if it turns out they should have taken Trump both literally and seriously in his promises to yank their Obamacare coverage. The new enrollment figures reinforce that problem.

The five states with the most people enrolling for coverage on the [HealthCare.gov] site through Monday were Florida, with 1.3 million plan selections, Texas (776,000), North Carolina (369,000), Georgia (352,000) and Pennsylvania (291,000). Mr. Trump carried all those states.

Assuming the enrollment surge continues through January, it will provide an unwelcome backdrop to the Obamacare repeal effort in Congress. It is probably too late for a delay in the “repeal and delay” strategy, so congressional Republicans will presumably grit their teeth and move ahead. Meanwhile, Americans will continue to rush into slavery, not realizing their liberation is at hand.

Obamacare Enjoys Politically Inconvenient Enrollment Spike