Re­port: Health care pre­mi­ums to rise by dou­ble dig­its in ’18.

Vot­ers look­ing for fix to 2010 law’s short­com­ings

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY TOM HOW­ELL JR.

The un­cer­tainty sown by Pres­i­dent Trump over health pay­ments is caus­ing dou­ble-dig­its pre­mi­ums in­creases for Oba­macare cus­tomers next year, ac­cord­ing to new re­ports this week that could un­der­cut his hopes of blam­ing Democrats as the law spi­rals.

Vot­ers also are in­creas­ingly look­ing for a mend-it, don’t-end-it ap­proach to the 2010 health law, say­ing both par­ties should work to­gether on fixes.

Mr. Trump has in­sisted Democrats who passed the law will shoul­der the blame as con­sumers face dwin­dling choices and ris­ing pre­mi­ums, but a Kaiser Fam­ily Foun­da­tion sur­vey said in­sur­ers are now re­act­ing to the moves Mr. Trump may make.

Com­pa­nies who fear that Mr. Trump would cut off crit­i­cal re­im­burse­ments jacked up their re­quested rates from 2 per­cent to 23 per­cent, Kaiser said.

And in­sur­ers who pre­dict Mr. Trump will re­lax the “in­di­vid­ual man­date” re­quir­ing Amer­i­cans to get health in­sur­ance could raise pre­mi­ums by as much as 20 per­cent more, the non­par­ti­san an­a­lysts said.

The level of un­cer­tainty about Mr. Trump “is far out­side the norm,” Kaiser con­cluded.

“It’s not un­usual for the un­cer­tainty to rep­re­sent about half of the over­all

“It’s not un­usual for the un­cer­tainty to rep­re­sent about half of the over­all pre­mium in­crease.” — Cyn­thia Cox, co-au­thor of Kaiser Fam­ily Foun­da­tion sur­vey

pre­mium in­crease,” said Cyn­thia Cox, who co-au­thored the study.

With the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion al­ready spawn­ing changes, Amer­i­cans are in­creas­ingly look­ing for fixes.

Nearly eight in 10, in­clud­ing about half of Trump sup­port­ers, say the pres­i­dent and his GOP al­lies should make the cur­rent health care law work, ac­cord­ing to a Kaiser poll be­ing re­leased Fri­day.

Mr. Trump’s threat to with­hold the “cost-shar­ing” re­im­burse­ments from in­sur­ers gets a dim view, with more than 60 per­cent re­ject­ing that tac­tic.

The sur­vey, Kaiser’s first since the stun­ning col­lapse of Repub­li­can ef­forts to re­peal and re­place the 2010 Af­ford­able Care Act, also found 69 per­cent say the GOP should fo­cus on im­prov­ing Oba­macare’s web-based ex­changes, com­pared to just 29 per­cent who want Repub­li­cans to con­tinue their plans to scrap the law.

Taken to­gether, the study and poll find­ings sug­gest Mr. Trump risks weak­en­ing his main line of at­tack against Pres­i­dent Obama’s sig­na­ture pro­gram — that it is col­laps­ing un­der its own weight, so Democrats bet­ter come to the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble or risk blame for a “death spi­ral” of their mak­ing.

“If Trump would just let Oba­macare take its nat­u­ral course, it would be­come ob­vi­ous that the health in­sur­ance ex­changes are not at all sta­ble,” Robert Laszewski, a health pol­icy con­sul­tant in Alexan­dria, Vir­ginia. “In­stead, he gives his po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents all of the am­mu­ni­tion they need to cloud the is­sue and le­git­i­mately point to his med­dling.”

The Demo­cratic Sen­a­to­rial Cam­paign Com­mit­tee wasted no time in seiz­ing on Kaiser’s pre­mium re­port, ar­gu­ing Mr. Trump and his GOP al­lies were putting their po­lit­i­cal in­ter­ests ahead of the peo­ple they serve.

“If they were se­ri­ous about mak­ing health care more af­ford­able, they would work across the aisle to strengthen mar­kets and elim­i­nate the un­cer­tainty that’s driv­ing up costs,” said DSCC spokesman David Berg­stein. “Repub­li­cans run­ning for Se­nate own th­ese ex­pen­sive rate hikes, which will im­pact vot­ers as they pre­pare to go to the polls next fall.”

Kaiser an­a­lyzed rate re­quests for sil­ver “bench­mark” plans that will be of­fered in 20 cities in 2018, and found 15 of them have pro­posed rate in­creases of at least 10 per­cent.

The high­est pro­posed in­crease was 49 per­cent in Wilm­ing­ton, Delaware.

The pro­pos­als are sub­ject to re­view by state reg­u­la­tors and don’t ac­count for the tax­payer-funded sub­si­dies that will cover most of the costs for roughly 10 mil­lion peo­ple who seek their in­sur­ance on the ex­changes. Up to 7 mil­lion more peo­ple buy cov­er­age off the ex­change but don’t qual­ify for sub­si­dies.

An­a­lysts say the mar­kets, on bal­ance, seem to be im­prov­ing, with some in­sur­ers on course to be prof­itable or at least break even this year af­ter charg­ing much higher rates.

But some in­sur­ers are still strug­gling as Oba­macare has failed to win over young and healthy en­rollees the com­pa­nies were count­ing on.

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