On-the-ground examples tell the same story of climbing government costs. The subsidy calculator on HealthCare.gov shows the average premium tax credit to assist a 30-year-old nonsmoker, earning $17,600 per year, more than doubled from $2,178 in 2014 to $4,448 for 2018.
CMS data concur. After a 2% increase in 2015, the government share of individual market premiums rose steadily year over year: jumping 10% in 2016 to 32% in 2017 and another 45% this year. Since 2014, the government is paying 114% more in subsidies.
Joseph Antos, a health economist at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute, said the exchanges are stable, but at an "unnecessarily large cost to taxpayers." He also doesn't see a fix for the cost anytime soon.
"No one in Congress or the White House seems worried about the debt or deficit," Antos said. "Moreover, unless Republicans keep control of Congress, gain more Senate seats, and reach agreement among themselves on policy, we will continue to drift along as we have."
The same goes if Democrats take control of Congress and nab the White House in 2020, he added, since it isn't yet clear what a Democratic administration would want to accomplish on healthcare.
"Liberal groups took a while to understand how the ACA subsidies work, and no longer want CSRs to be paid," Antos said. "That won't change after three years of excessive ACA subsidies."
Ultimately, any big enrollment swell for Obamacare would be expensive and difficult, but that won't necessarily shift the conversation.