Trump causing big cost hikes in health policies
Mixed signals leading insurers to seek larger increases, study finds.
Actions by the Trump administration are triggering double-digit premium increases on individual health insurance policies purchased by many people, according to a nonpartisan study.
The analysis released Thursday by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that mixed signals from President Trump have created uncertainty “far outside the norm” and led insurers to seek higher premium increases for 2018 than would otherwise have been the case.
Republicans in Congress have not delivered on their promise to repeal and replace the Obama-era Affordable Care Act. Trump is insisting that lawmakers try again and that Obama’s signature health overhaul is collapsing. At the same time, he has threatened to stop billions of dollars in payments to insurers. Some Republicans are considering fallback measures to stabilize markets.
Kaiser researchers looked at proposed premiums for a benchmark silver plan across major metropolitan areas in 20 states and Washington, D.C. Overall, they found that 15 of those cities will see increases of 10% or more next year.
The highest is a 49% jump in Wilmington, Del. The only decline: a 5% reduction in Providence, R.I.
About 10 million people who buy policies through HealthCare.gov and staterun markets are potentially affected, as are 5 million to 7 million who buy individual policies on their own.
Most of those in the government-sponsored markets can dodge the hit with the help of tax credits to help pay premiums. But offmarketplace customers pay full freight, and they face a second consecutive year of steep increases. Many are self-employed business owners.
The report found insurer participation in the Affordable Care Act markets will be lower than at any time since they opened for business in 2014. The average is 4.6 insurers in the states studied, down from 5.1 insurers this year. In many cases, insurers do not sell plans in every community in a state.
The researchers analyzed publicly available filings through which insurers justify their proposed premiums to state regulators. Insurers are struggling with sicker-than-expected customers and disappointingly low enrollment, and an industry tax is expected to add 2 to 3 percentage points to premiums next year.
On top of that, researchers found that mixed signals from the administration account for some of the higher charges. Those could increase before enrollment starts Nov. 1.
“The vast majority of companies in states with detailed rate filings have included some language around the uncertainty, so it is likely that more companies will revise their premiums to reflect uncertainty in the absence of clear answers from Congress or the administration,” the report said.
Insurers that assumed that Trump would make good on his threat to stop billions of dollars in payments to subsidize copayments and deductibles requested additional premium increases ranging from 2% to 23%, the report found.