We may be roughly halfway through 2017, but insurance companies are already showing just how much President Donald Trump’s policies could rock the Obamacare market.
Insurers have submitted their 2018 plans in seven states and Washington DC for the Obamacare individual insurance exchanges, giving us the first glimpse of how they are digesting the outlook for the healthcare industry under Trump.
Over the past two weeks, two insurers have made it clear just how Trump’s policies could cause healthcare costs for average Americans in these exchanges to increase by more than they would otherwise.
In Pennsylvania, Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller announced on Thursday that the premium for a baseline Obamacare exchange plan would increase by an average of only 8.8% for 2018 compared to this year. This is lower than the 10.5% increase between 2016 and 2017.
But Miller warned that premiums could go much higher if Trump makes just a few policy changes. According to Miller, if Trump announces he will stop enforcing the individual mandate that compels people to buy coverage, premium requests from insurance companies would increase by an average jump of 23.3%.
Additionally, if Trump stops making cost sharing reduction (CSR) payments, insurers would ask for a 20.3% increase on average. CSR payments offset the cost for insurers of providing lower out-of-pocket costs to poorer Americans. Health policy experts have said the payments are critical and without them, Trump’s predictions of a “collapse” in the market could come true.
If both changes are made, insurers would ask for a 36.3% increase, according to Miller.
“I sincerely hope that Congress and the Trump Administration do not take action that could negatively impact the progress we have made in Pennsylvania,” Miller said in a statement announcing the rates.
Similarly, in North Carolina, Brad Wilson, the CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield North Carolina (BCBS NC), said that the company was forced to jack up their requested premium due to the uncertainty over the CSR payments and other changes form the Trump administration.
Due to uncertainty over the CSRs, the company requested an increase of 22.9% for the 2018 plan year. BCBS NC said they would have requested a 8.8% raise if not for the payments’ murky future.
“The failure of the administration and the House to bring certainty and clarity by funding CSRs has caused our company to file a 22.9 per cent premium increase, rather than one that is materially lower,” Wilson told The Washington Post. ‘That will impact hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians.”
In fact, Wilson said that the market in 2017 was looking solid.
“It’s still early and our numbers for the year run about 30 to 45 days behind. But the analysis underway so far in 2017 appears to show stability in the market in terms of price, utilization, and the customer base,” the CEO told Vox.
Many health policy experts projected that the large jump in premiums for 2017 was a one-off issue as insurers adjusted their plan costs to the relative health of the market and the exchanges became fully phased-in.
It appears in Pennsylvania and North Carolina the exchange markets were close to being stabilised, if not for the uncertainty from the Trump administration.
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