Obamacare Hikes Probably Won't Be Making Voters Sick

If there’s one thing that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump seem to agree on, it’s that the former is planning on continuing and building on the policies and legacy of the Obama administration. For much of this election, whether or not you thought of this as a positive or a negative depended wholly on your existing political affiliation. But with the release of estimates of the 2017 health exchange premiums, which include average increases of 22 percent, the rising healthcare costs could spell trouble for Clinton, especially with the exchanges opening just a week before Election Day. On the other hand… maybe it won’t?

Political observers have been saying throughout the general election campaign that with any other candidate, the GOP would be winning. While theories about alternate universes are interesting, they’re ultimately not very informative, so rather than spending time thinking about what might have happened if, say, Ohio Gov. John Kasich were running instead of Trump, let’s look at the facts of the election as it stands now, and try to figure out what, if any, effect the rising Obamacare premiums will have on this election.

It’s important to keep in mind that the vast majority of Americans still get their health care through an employer or government programs like Medicare and Medicaid, which means that the sticker shock being envisioned by Republicans won’t actually be felt by all that many people. Only roughly 9 percent of Americans get their health care through private insurance, which includes the Obamacare exchanges. Moreover, the increased premiums will still be offset by federal subsidies, which will in some cases lessen the sting of the rising costs.

But all this rests on the assumption that an increase in premiums will translate directly to political action. Set aside the fact that as of today, millions of Americans have already voted (and so can’t change their vote when the enrollment period opens Nov. 1). Many people currently receiving insurance through the exchanges report their health needs are being increasingly met, and that they are less concerned financially about affording it than before Obamacare.

There’s probably further dissection to be done along geopolitical lines — many states that are most likely to see increases are ones where the government has resisted Obamacare, making it harder for its citizens to afford healthcare. It follows that many of these states were already in Trump’s column.


One curious outlier may be Arizona, which hasn’t been won by a Democrat since 1996, but is hotly contested in the final days of this election. At the time of writing, FiveThirtyEight has nearly 50/50 odds on who will win Arizona. However, with several health insurance companies pulling out of that market, the state is anticipating premium increases by as much as 116 percent. It could tip the state away from Democrats — we’ll just have to wait and see.