You think Sen. Mark Begich has a lousy record to run on now, wait until the fall season rolls around and with it a major hike in health insurance rates in Alaska. The Heritage foundation estimates health insurance rates will shoot up 13 percent in Alaska once the state finalizes its rate. Other states will see even higher increases with estimates showing rates going up almost 25 percent. According to politico.com, so far no state has finalized its rate, but 21 have posted bids for 2015. You guessed it, premiums went up in all 21 states.
Fagan is getting his information from a Politico story called “ObamaCare’s Next Threat: A September Surprise.”
While it might be true that health care premiums will rise—though we don’t know by how much—it’s also true that health care premiums have been rising dramatically before ObamaCare. Between 2000 and 2009, health insurance premiums for Alaskans rose a whopping 90.8 percent, while earnings rose by 17.3 percent. Much the same thing was happening across the country, which was one of the main impetuses behind ObamaCare in the first place. Republicans had no answers. Democrats thought that they did.
On the Dan Fagan/Glen Biegel show last week, I asked GOP Senate candidate Dan Sullivan–who like the other two candidates running for the GOP seat has been promising repeal of ObamaCare–what he would put in its place. After all, more than 9 more people are insured under ObamaCare, now than last year, and studies have shown that the people who have the insurance like it.
Sullivan pulled out the Republican panacea, and talked about federal tort reform law. Not withstanding the fact that Republicans and Sullivan have been railing about federal overreach—and such a law would trump state law—what actual effect this would have is hotly debated. Already, most states have enacted some form of tort reform. In 1997, the Alaska State Legislature passed a law that limited the amount of “non-economic damages” that can be recovered in a wrongful death action to $400,000, or $8,000 times the person’s life expectancy, whichever is greater.
It was tough to get it through, but proponents promised that such reform would open up Alaska’s insurance market to its citizens, lower malpractice insurance rates for doctors and entice them to come to the state.
Neither happened. According to the American Medical Association, Alaska was one of five states where, between 1998 and 2007, an increase in population did not lead to a proportional increase in the number of doctors.
However, the facts here will probably not matter much. ObamaCare has turned into a symbol, and facts don’t easily perforate symbols. The act is unpopular in Alaska and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future.
Begich was a first-year senator at the time of its passage. His vote was crucial, and apparently, he didn’t either know or understand then how to trade votes. Had he played tough, he could have likely gotten anything he wanted for that vote. From what I can tell, he didn’t ask.
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