Editorial: ACA changes reflect election worries

Published May 28, 2014 at 12:01AM

If you’re President Barack Obama, you have a big stake in the November election. A Republican-controlled U.S. Senate joining the GOP-led House of Representatives surely would make his life more difficult than it already is. And how Americans feel about the Affordable Care Act when they vote this fall could make a difference in the election outcome.

The administration is right to worry about the ACA.

According to Forbes Magazine, one investment firm surveyed health insurance brokers last month and found they expect health insurance rates to skyrocket, at least in some states. The brokers predicted individual rate increases of 100 percent in Delaware, 53 percent in California and 45 percent in Connecticut, to name a few. Meanwhile, in the small group market, they foresee rates going up a whopping 588 percent in Washington, 66 percent in Pennsylvania and 37 percent in California.

That’s bad enough. Americans will begin enrolling for next year’s coverage this fall on Oct. 1 — just about a month before the general election.

Administration officials already are responding to the Forbes prediction and others like it. And, as they’ve done in the past, that response comes in rewriting the ACA by changing the regulations that accompany it.

This time, they’ve changed the rules to make insurers eligible for federal dollars if they keep premiums down and lose money in the process. The new regulation would allow the Department of Health and Human Services to move money from other programs to cover losses under the ACA. Meanwhile, officials continue to say they don’t believe rates will jump as much as many expect.

It isn’t the first time the administration has “adjusted” the ACA to fit its own political needs — it has delayed several requirements on businesses for a year or more. Individuals, too, have been told they need not meet deadlines that were part of the original law.

Now it’s the insurance companies’ turn. The administration knows that unless it can keep the “affordable” in the Affordable Care Act, it faces the real possibility of a Congress controlled by Republicans.