• 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.

. . .

President Donald Trump vowed Monday that his new health-care chief Alex Azar — a former top drug-company executive who raised prescription prices — is “going to get those prescription drug prices way down” as Azar was sworn in for his job.

“It’s doing to come rocketing down,” Trump said as Azar, 50, stood at his side in the White House before taking his oath as secretary of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department from Vice President Mike Pence.

“We have to get the prices of prescription drugs way down, and unravel the tangled web of special interests that are driving prices up for medicine, and are really hurting patients,” Trump said.

“And nobody knows that process better than Alex.”

Growth in U.S. health spending slowed considerably in 2016, rising by 4.3 percent, after two years of higher spending growth spurred by Obamacare and prescription drugs.

The slowdown in health spending growth was seen broadly across all major forms of private and public insurance, and in medical services, prescription drugs and other goods, according to an official analysis released Wednesday.

But because health spending grew faster, as it has for years, than overall gross domestic product, health spending’s share of the economy increased to 17.9 percent in 2016, up from 17.7 percent of the economy the year before.

. . .

The average price of the most popular types of Obamacare health plans sold on the federal insurance marketplace will be at least 34 percent higher in 2018, according to an analysis released Wednesday.

The Avalere Health analysis also found lower — but still double-digit — average price hikes for the other types of Obamacare plans, which go on sale Nov. 1.
. . .

Half of Virginia’s counties now are on track to have no health insurers offering Obamacare plans in 2018 after an insurer reversed a decision to sell individual health coverage in much of the state.

The pullback by Optima Health in Virginia ends a brief, two-week period in which every county in the United States was projected to have at least one Obamacare insurer next year.

. . .

Health care has become an ongoing source of pain for many small-business owners. It was the top issue owners wanted Trump to address in a survey of 700 owners and prospective buyers in late February by BizBuy Sell, a marketplace for small businesses.

Among respondents, 60 percent favored an ACA repeal. The major reason: spiraling health insurance premiums — often a result of insurance companies fleeing the marketplace.

. . .

If a house is on fire, you do not wait for it to burn to the ground before trying to save the family trapped inside. The situation we face today with Obamacare is no different: It is on the verge of collapse, buckling under the weight of its own toxic mix of mandates and regulations, and many of our fellow Americans are trapped inside.

This crisis will not resolve itself — it is only getting worse, and America’s families can’t wait any longer. Do we have the courage to do what’s right for the American people?

. . .

While Republicans continue to grapple with plans to repeal and replace Obamacare and stabilize health insurance rates, Humana is the first major insurer to say it is dropping out of the individual market for 2018.

“Based on our initial analysis of data associated with the company’s health-care exchange membership following the 2017 open enrollment period, we continue to see further signs of an unbalanced risk pool,” said Humana CEO Bruce Broussard, on a conference call with analysts Tuesday. “Therefore, the company has decided that it cannot continue to offer this coverage for 2018.”

In the wake of the news, President Donald Trump tweeted that the insurer’s decision was another example of the failure of the Affordable Care Act, and he reiterated his plan to “repeal, replace & save healthcare for ALL Americans.”

. . .

It is not a question of whether or not Republicans and Democrats will come to a compromise over replacing Obamacare.

Since it will take 60 Senate votes, and the Republicans only have 52 seats, there is no way we can get to a solution to the Obamacare conundrum without a bipartisan compromise.

So, what might that look like?

We can’t underestimate the fundamental ideological differences between Democrats and Republicans on the entitlements–of which Obamacare is just one.

First, think of an old-fashioned pension plan as a defined benefit plan. The employer promised a set benefit based upon years of service and wages for the rest of the retiree’s life. If the stock market crashed, the employer guarantee would continue. In a defined benefit plan, the sponsor takes the risk of being able to pay the benefits.

. . .

Obamacare customers are acting more cost-conscious than other people with insurance — and it could be affecting their health.

A new survey finds that 50 percent of people who buy health plans through government-run Obamacare marketplaces say they cut back on getting health care services as they try to manage costs.

That can include not going to the doctor as often when they’re sick, skipping preventative care visits and lab tests, and delaying elective surgeries.

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