Ignore the Republicans: Obamacare Is Doing Fine


I’ve been writing a bit less lately about Obamacare, and there’s a reason for that: It’s a done deal. It’s not going to be repealed; the website woes have mostly been fixed; and we’re now at a point where we’re simply not going to know how it works out until it’s been up and running for a while. Obsessing over every interim report and every Republican screamfest doesn’t make much sense. We just have to wait and see.

For example: the latest bit of manufactured Republican hysteria concerns an interim report showing that 2.1 million people signed up on the exchanges through January 1 (not bad, really), but only 24 percent of them are young people. That’s potentially a problem, since insurers rely on a certain mix of old and young when they set their premium levels. Older people tend to be sicker, so if there are more older people than they expect then they’ll have to raise premiums.

As it happens, this is almost certainly not a real problem. Younger people tend to wait longer to sign up for insurance, and that 24 percent number will most likely rise through the end of the year. But what if it doesn’t? As it turns out, nothing much will happen. Ezra Klein explains:

The risk of a “death spiral” is over. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that if the market’s age distribution freezes at its current level — an extremely unlikely scenario — “overall costs in individual market plans would be about 2.4% higher than premium revenues.” So, in theory, premiums costs might rise by a few percentage points. That’s a problem, but it’s nothing even in the neighborhood of a death spiral.

There are additional details that make this even less of a problem than that, but who cares? That’s enough. The 24 percent number is extremely likely to go up; the impact will be very small if it doesn’t; and there are transitional policies that smooth out any problems in the first few years anyway. Bottom line: Republicans are trying to make hay with this, but that’s just Republicans being Republicans. You can safely ignore them. There’s really nothing much to worry about here.

A BETTER WAY TO DO THIS?

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and we can't afford to come up short. But when a reader recently asked how being a nonprofit makes Mother Jones different from other news organizations, we realized we needed to lay this out better: Because "in absolutely every way" is essentially the answer.

So we tried to explain why your year-end donations are so essential, and we'd like your help refining our pitch about what make Mother Jones valuable and worth reading to you.

We'd also like your support of our journalism with a year-end donation if you can right now—all online gifts will be doubled until we hit our $350,000 goal thanks to an incredibly generous donor's matching gift pledge.

payment methods

A BETTER WAY TO DO THIS?

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and we can't afford to come up short. But when a reader recently asked how being a nonprofit makes Mother Jones different from other news organizations, we realized we needed to lay this out better: Because "in absolutely every way" is essentially the answer.

So we tried to explain why your year-end donations are so essential, and we'd like your help refining our pitch about what make Mother Jones valuable and worth reading to you.

We'd also like your support of our journalism with a year-end donation if you can right now—all online gifts will be doubled until we hit our $350,000 goal thanks to an incredibly generous donor's matching gift pledge.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate