ObamaCare’s impact on health costs.

Why it matters: Health care costs are one of the top issues voters say they care about, but any plan to address them would likely need to be bipartisan.

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What to watch: The Senate health committee will begin a series of cost hearings this week. The House isn’t far behind, now that it has wrapped up a marathon of opioids bills.

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Even in today’s highly partisan environment, there’s one thing nearly all Americans agree on: The soaring cost of prescription drugs is alarming.

In fact, 80 percent of Americans consider the cost of prescription drugs unreasonable. At the same time, a majority of Americans recognize that prescription drugs have improved countless lives. The president’s recently unveiled comprehensive blueprint to lower prescription drug costs has many ideas worthy of exploration. However, if we truly want to reduce costs and make life-changing and life-saving medications accessible to all Americans, we must increase competition among prescription drugs — particularly new drugs that have the ability to cure diseases, but face limited competition.

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Obamacare premiums are once again poised to spike by double digits in 2019, causing heartburn for politicians as voters will head to the polls within days of learning about the looming hit to their pocketbooks.

But unlike recent campaign cycles, when Republicans capitalized on Obamacare sticker shock to help propel them to control of Congress and the White House, they’re now likely to be the ones feeling the wrath of voters.

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Insurers on the District of Columbia’s Obamacare insurance exchange want to raise rates by nearly 15 percent in 2019, while Minnesota’s insurers propose to reduce rates by up to about 12 percent.

Insurers in Minnesota can take advantage of a reinsurance program in which the state helps subsidize the biggest insurance claims on Obamacare’s insurance exchanges. Efforts to create a federal reinsurance program ran aground in the Senate because of disagreements over abortion funding.

In Minnesota, all of the state’s five Obamacare insurers are asking for proposed rate reductions of 3 to 12 percent for certain plans. That is a major difference from the final rates for the 2018 coverage year, which ranged from a 16 to 32 percent hike.

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ObamaCare enrollees should brace themselves for another year of double-digit premium hikes.

Average premiums for plans sold through the state and federal insurance exchanges will jump as much as 32% next year, according to a recent report from actuarial firm Milliman. Consumers in some markets could face 80% rate hikes, according to a separate analysis from Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Democrats have pounced on these projections to blame the GOP for “marketplace sabotage.” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., remarked that “Republicans and the Trump administration own any and all increases in health care premiums for American consumers.”

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Even health insurers that don’t expect many of their plan members to drop insurance coverage after the individual mandate penalty is zeroed out still may have to raise individual market premiums in 2019 as their payments from the ACA’s risk adjustment program change thanks to the mandate loss.

Buffalo, N.Y.-based insurer Independent Health doesn’t expect a large number of its 5,000 ACA exchange members to drop their coverage when the individual mandate penalty is effectively repealed starting in 2019. Its population skews older and sicker, and most members need their insurance coverage. Its average member is about 49 years old, and about half receive federal premium subsidies.

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Health insurers are asking Washington state regulators to allow them to raise the price of Obamacare premiums in 2019 by an average of 19 percent.

Under the latest proposals made public Monday, no county in the state will be left without an Obamacare insurer, a type of medical coverage offered to customers who do not get health insurance through a job or government program. Still, 14 counties would have only one insurer to choose from, which will limit their options and the doctors and hospitals that will be in their network.

State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler blamed the Trump administration’s changes to Obamacare for the increases.

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The Trump administration is not sabotaging the nation’s insurance system — it’s trying to make health plans more affordable. That’s the intent behind the administration’s recent proposal to expand access to short-term plans.

“These plans aren’t subject to many of the regulations that have sent exchange premiums soaring. As a result, they’re significantly cheaper. The average premium for a short-term individual plan at the end of 2016 was only $124 per month. Obamacare-compliant plans, on the other hand, cost an average of $393 per month.”

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In recent elections, Democrats have faced attacks related to health-care costs, with the party being blamed for premium increases on Affordable Care Act exchanges during the Obama years.

Now, as many health insurers are seeking to impose double-digit rate increases on those marketplaces, a number of recent surveys suggest Republicans may take the lion’s share of the blame, with Democrats viewed more favorably on the issue ahead of November’s midterm elections.

For example, 61% of voters said President Donald Trump and Republicans would be responsible for problems with the ACA going forward, according to a late 2017 Kaiser Family Foundation poll.

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  • The price of Obamacare benchmark silver plans will rise 15 percent next year, the Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday in a new report.
  • The CBO also projects about 5 million more people will be uninsured in 2027 than it estimated in September, up to a total of 35 million people.
  • The double-digit premium increase would come during President Donald Trump’s third year in office and could add fuel to a heated debate over health care and the fate of the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.

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