Sabotage Watch: Why Are Healthcare Premiums So High in Red States?

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Steve Benen notes today that after soliciting bids for the healthcare exchanges due to open next year, some states are announcing lower premiums than others:

The pattern isn’t exactly subtle: if you live in a state where officials want “Obamacare” to work, the law looks great. If you live in a state where officials are actively trying to undermine the law, regardless of what it does to you, your premiums, and your family’s access to quality and affordable care, then — you guessed it — the news isn’t as encouraging.

….My question is, what happens in those red states when residents start looking across borders and they wonder to themselves, “Why aren’t my benefits as great as theirs?” In theory, this should prompt those folks to start asking their state officials to do more of what works.

And this in turn might create an interesting political situation for red-state Republicans who want to listen to their constituents but who also want to undermine the health care law out of partisan spite.

It’ll be interesting to see if this pattern holds up once we get rate details from all the states. Right now it’s sort of hard to judge, since there aren’t all that many red states setting up exchanges in the first place. Most of the states who were really opposed to Obamacare simply punted on the whole thing and left everything up to the federal exchanges.

My guess is that once the dust settles, rates are going to be fairly similar across the country. Competition among insurance companies will get us part of the way there, and constituent pressure will eventually do the rest. In the end, residents of red states are going to have access to reasonably priced health insurance no matter how much it infuriates their Republican leaders.

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