Obamacare premiums have been exploding higher ever since the controversial legislation took over health insurance markets. And while many would say that another year of premium increases is a logical extrapolation of a predictable, multi-year trend resulting from a failed policy, others would like for you to believe that the massive (yet consistent) premium increases being proposed for the 2018 plan year are unique because they’re Trump’s fault.
As the Wall Street Journal notes this morning, insurers across the country are once again seeking massive premium increases in 2018.
Major health insurers in some states are seeking increases as high as 30% or more for premiums on 2018 Affordable Care Act plans, according to new federal data that provide the broadest view so far of the turmoil across exchanges as companies try to anticipate Trump administration policies.
Big insurers in Idaho, West Virginia, South Carolina, Iowa and Wyoming are seeking to raise premiums by averages close to 30% or more, according to preliminary rate requests published Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Major marketplace players in New Mexico, Tennessee, North Dakota and Hawaii indicated they were looking for average increases of 20% or more.
In other cases, insurers are looking for more limited premium increases for the suites of products they offer in individual states, reflecting the variety of situations in different markets. Health Care Service Corp., a huge exchange player in five states, filed for average increases including 8.3% in Oklahoma, 23.6% in Texas, and 16% in Illinois.
Of course, as we’ve noted multiple times over the past couple of years, Obamacare premium increases are hardly a new phenomenon. In fact, data from the Department of Health and Human Services recently revealed that premiums across the country soared an average of 113% over the past 4 years, or nearly 30% per year. Ironically, that 30% is the same hike that many insurers are seeking for 2018…some folks would call that a trend.
But, other folks don’t believe in things like math and adverse selection bias that results in deteriorating risk pools and higher costs for insurers…no, they prefer simple, provocative narratives that can be exploited for political gain while masking the real underlying problems of a failed policy that is ruining healthcare for millions of hard working Americans.
So what’s the narrative? ‘It’s Trump fault’, of course.
Insurers are also concerned about whether the Trump administration will enforce the requirement for most people to have insurance coverage, which industry officials say helps hold down rates by prodding young, healthy people to sign up for plans.
In Montana, Health Care Service linked 17 percentage points of its 23% rate increase request to concerns about the cost-sharing payments and enforcement of the mandate that requires everyone to purchase insurance. Kurt Kossen, a senior vice president at Health Care Service, said the company’s rate requests are driven by causes including growing health costs and “uncertainty and the associated risks that exist within this marketplace, including uncertainty around issues like the continued funding of [cost-sharing payments] and mechanisms that encourage broad and continuous coverage.”
The impact of potentially losing the cost-sharing payments was also clear in the rates requested by Blue Cross of Idaho, which average 28%. That would probably be in the lower teens if the payments were guaranteed, said Dave Jeppesen, a senior vice president. “It’s a big swing,” he said. “There’s a lot of risk associated with the uncertainty in Congress right now, and we are pricing appropriately for that risk.”
So, this obviously begs the question, if Trump decided to leave Obamacare completely unchanged for 2018 would all of these insurers promptly lower their rate proposals? Somehow we suspect not…