ObamaCare’s impact on health costs.

The big rate increases announced last week for health insurance policies sold by California’s version of the federal health reform are the latest evidence that the Affordable Care Act, despite its name, cannot do much to tame the rise of health care costs.

The government-run health insurance market is facing all the same cost pressures that the private market has confronted for years, plus more that have resulted from the dynamics of the federal law itself.

Covered California, the state insurance agency created to implement the federal law, announced last week that rates for insurance sold through the program will increase an average of 13.2 percent in 2017. The state’s two biggest insurers, Blue Shield and Anthem Inc., will increase rates by 19.9 percent and 17.2 percent, respectively.

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Today’s headline in The Los Angeles Times: “California Obamacare rates to rise 13% in 2017, more than three times the increase of the last two years.” The increase will be 17.2% for Anthem and 19.9% for Blue Shield–the largest Obamacare insurers.

Obamacare supporters have long pointed to Covered California as the example of just how good Obamacare could be if the entire program were run as well as it is in California.

Covered California’s average rate increase for 2017 will be 13.2%.

But half of the California market is controlled by two carriers who will be asking for much bigger increases. Blue Shield of California said its average rate increase for 2017 will be 19.9%, the biggest statewide increase. Anthem Blue Cross said it will increase its rates by an average of 17.2% for 2017.

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California’s Obamacare premiums will jump 13.2 percent on average next year, a sharp increase that is likely to reverberate nationwide in an election year.

The Covered California exchange had won plaudits by negotiating 4 percent average rate increases in its first two years. But that feat couldn’t be repeated for 2017, as overall medical costs continue to climb and two federal programs that help insurers with expensive claims are set to expire this year.

The increase announced Tuesday comes as major insurers around the country seek even bigger rate hikes for open enrollment this fall, and the presidential candidates clash over the future of President Barack Obama’s landmark health law.

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California’s Obamacare customers can expect a hefty increase in their monthly health insurance premiums next year.

Covered California, the state’s Obamacare marketplace, released proposed premiums Tuesday morning, and the statewide average increase for 2017 will be 13.2 percent.

Peter Lee, the agency’s executive director, cited factors including increased medical costs and the end of a federal “reinsurance” program as main drivers of the increase.

Blue Shield and Anthem Blue Cross customers will face the steepest increases.

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For several years, the Obama administration has urged state insurance regulators to use tools provided by the Affordable Care Act to hold down health care premiums.

Now federal officials will have a chance to practice what they preach as they confront big increases proposed in several states where they are responsible for reviewing rates.

Federal officials defer to the insurance commissioners in 46 states deemed to have “effective rate review” programs. But in Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming, the federal government is in charge of reviewing rates.

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Consumers who purchase their insurance through the public exchanges will likely see prices rise again next year, according to a new analysis of proposed premiums for next year.

The Avalere Health analysis of 14 states where data is available finds that premium increases for average silver plans would go up by 11 percent. Lower-cost silver plans would increase a bit less, by 8 percent.

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The word is right there in the name of the law: “Affordable.” The ACA promised to bring health insurance down to earth, letting uninsured people buy policies that didn’t break the bank, and bringing the astonishing cost of medical care into reach for all Americans.

What’s becoming clear, three years in, is that “affordable” depends where you look. Twenty million more people are covered and tens of millions of others have broader benefits because of Obamacare. But many insurers, faced with new coverage requirements and competition on premiums, have shifted costs onto consumers.

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The Illinois Insurance Department moved Tuesday to shut down Land of Lincoln because of its unstable financial health, leaving about 49,000 policyholders in a lurch. They will lose coverage in the coming months, but neither regulators nor the company have said exactly when.

Policyholders will be able to buy insurance from a different carrier to cover them for the rest of 2016, according to the state Insurance Department. But switching plans is going to cost them.

The co-pays and deductibles enrollees have been paying since January will not transfer to new plans. A new plan will reset deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums paid by consumers.

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Health insurers in Michigan are seeking another round of double-digit rate increases next year for plans they sell to individuals, although smaller increases for their small group plans.

Insurance giant Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan has asked state regulators for permission to boost its premium rates by an average 18.7% for individual plans, along with a 14.8% increase for its Blue Care Network individual plans. Those plans — closely associated with the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare — cover about 200,000 individuals in the state, down from 310,000 people as recently as a year ago.

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If you’re looking to find a smashing Obamacare success story—a place where the nation’s biggest and most controversial new law in a generation has truly lived up to its promise—you might stick a pin directly in North Carolina.
The central pledge of the Affordable Care Act was to make insurance available to people who didn’t have it, creating a new safety net for millions nationwide. And in North Carolina that’s exactly what happened. People flocked to the program: More than 600,000 people there signed up for Obamacare policies in 2016, and roughly 90 percent of those got financial help to pay their insurance bills, also through Obamacare. Thanks directly to the ACA, the number of people without health insurance in North Carolina has plummeted by 30 percent in the past three years. Far more people are covered, and far more of them can afford their health insurance.

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