ObamaCare’s impact on health costs.
As the fourth year of Obamacare approaches, Politico’s Paul Demko reports that consumers can expect more of the same price hikes and narrowed choices as they have seen the first three years. The Obama administration insists that prices only rose eight percent for 2016 over the previous year – even though that itself is still more than three times the rate of inflation, and ignores states like Minnesota where the average premium increase was over 30 percent.
“There are reasons to think the next round may be different,” Demko warns. He quotes a Deloitte executive who agrees. “A number of carriers need double-digit increases” for 2017. Those price increases will hit the Obamacare exchanges on November 1st, one week before voters elect a new President and Congress.
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Nearly 25% of Americans surveyed last September who had coverage through employer plans, the Affordable Care Act exchanges, or individual plans outside the exchanges reported problems paying family medical bills in the previous 12 months, according to the Urban Institute’s Health Reform Monitoring Survey, released last month. That compared with 16% of people on Medicaid and 27.8% of uninsured individuals who said they had problems with medical bills.
The Kaiser Family Foundation reached similar findings through focus group interviews with 91 low-income Medicaid and exchange-plan enrollees in six cities during January and February 2016.
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Insurers are in the process of filing proposed premiums for ACA-compliant nongroup plans that will be available inside and outside of Marketplaces in 2017.
Recent reports by insurers about their experiences during the first two years under the ACA suggest that some assumed that enrollees would be healthier than they turned out to be and set their premiums too low, leading in some cases to significant financial losses for ACA-compliant plans and an expectation that premiums could rise faster in 2017. Some insurers took relatively large premium increases for 2016 to better match premium levels with the costs of their enrollees — which would help to offset the need for 2017 premium increases — but it is too soon to know if these efforts were generally successful or whether losses have continued into 2016.
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It already looks clear that many Obamacare insurance plans are going to raise their prices significantly.
Over the last few years, average premium increases in the ObamaCare markets have been lower than the increases for people who bought their own insurance in premiums before the Affordable Care Act. But several trends are coming together that suggest that pattern will break when plan premiums are announced in early November. Many plans may increase prices by 10 percent, or more.
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Insurers have begun to propose big premium increases for coverage next year under the 2010 health law, as some struggle to make money in a market where their costs have soared.
The companies also have detailed the challenges in their Affordable Care Act business in a round of earnings releases, the most recent of which came on Wednesday when Humana Inc. said it made a slim profit on individual plans in the first quarter, not including some administrative costs, but still expects a loss for the full year. The Louisville, Ky.-based insurer created a special reserve fund at the end of last year to account for some expected losses on its individual plans in 2016.
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Every Oregon health insurance company but one is proposing double-digit percentage rate hikes for the individual market in 2017, with two of the biggest players — Moda Health Plans and Providence Health Plans — both seeking to raise rates by nearly a third.
Seven of the 12 insurers in the small-group market are also seeking increases, albeit smaller than those in the individual market.
It marks the second straight year of sizable increases since implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
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While the Affordable Care Act managed to bring basic health insurance to almost everyone in the country — about 90 percent of Americans are covered — for many people it’s not enough.
Rising deductibles and copayments can mean people don’t get much benefit from paying monthly premiums. A recent study from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows deductibles rose about eight times faster than wages in the past 10 years.
“The nature of insurance has been changing over the last decade, to the point where people’s out-of-pocket costs are becoming a real struggle,” said Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Family Foundation. “More people are insured, but in many ways people are not insured enough.”
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- 15% of Americans say healthcare costs are family’s top financial concern
- Those without money to live comfortably concerned with immediate living costs
- About one in 10 Americans say their family faces no financial problems
The last thing Democrats want to contend with just a week before the 2016 presidential election is an outcry over double-digit insurance hikes as millions of Americans begin signing up for Obamacare. But that looks increasingly likely as health plans socked by Obamacare losses look to regain their financial footing by raising rates.
Just a week after the nation’s largest insurer, UnitedHealth Group, pulled out of most Obamacare exchanges because it anticipates $650 million in losses this year, Aetna’s CEO said Thursday that his company expects to break even, but legislative fixes are needed to make the marketplace sustainable.
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Expect insurers to seek significant premium increases under President Barack Obama’s health care law, in a wave of state-level requests rippling across the country ahead of the political conventions this summer.
Insurers say the law’s coverage has been a financial drain for many of them, and they’re setting the stage for 2017 hikes that in some cases could reach well into the double digits.
For example in Virginia, a state that reports early, nine insurers returning to the HealthCare.gov marketplace are seeking average premium increases that range from 9.4 percent to 37.1 percent.
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