Surprise! (But only if you haven’t been paying attention.)
At the beginning of May, I blogged about the looming October Obamacare surprise — seriously nasty rate hikes.
Unfortunately (or fortunately — depending on where you stand) for Democrats, pending rate increase announcements could not come at a worse time. Open enrollment begins the first week of November, just in time for Obamacare and independent health insurance consumers to take their sticker shock to the ballot box.
Last month, the country’s largest health insurer, UnitedHealth, announced its withdrawal from several Obamacare exchanges and projected losses of around $650 million this year alone. Other large insurers are eyeing the vacated territory, but none have committed yet.
Insurer complaints are the same — health insurance consumers are sicker and older than their original models predicted, making affordable insurance a virtually impossible offering.
Fastforward to the end of October and sure enough, the Obama administration confirmed double-digit rate hikes for Obamacare consumers.
The AP reported Monday:
Premiums will go up sharply next year under President Barack Obama’s health care law, and many consumers will be down to just one insurer, the administration confirmed Monday. That’s sure to stoke another “Obamacare” controversy days before a presidential election.
Before taxpayer-provided subsidies, premiums for a midlevel benchmark plan will increase an average of 25 percent across the 39 states served by the federally run online market, according to a report from the Department of Health and Human Services. Some states will see much bigger jumps, others less.
Moreover, about 1 in 5 consumers will only have plans from a single insurer to pick from, after major national carriers such as UnitedHealth Group, Humana and Aetna scaled back their roles.
“Consumers will be faced this year with not only big premium increases but also with a declining number of insurers participating, and that will lead to a tumultuous open enrollment period,” said Larry Levitt, who tracks the health care law for the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.
HHS essentially confirmed state-by-state reports that have been coming in for months. Window shopping for plans and premiums is already available through HealthCare.gov.
Administration officials are stressing that subsidies provided under the law, which are designed to rise alongside premiums, will insulate most customers from sticker shock. They add that consumers who are willing to switch to cheaper plans will still be able to find bargains.
“Headline rates are generally rising faster than in previous years,” acknowledged HHS spokesman Kevin Griffis. But he added that for most consumers, “headline rates are not what they pay.”
“Headline rates are not what they pay.” *
*Unless you’re self-employed or purchase your own insurance from an exchange without subsidy.
Flashback to a simpler age — 2010, when Democrats derided Mitt Romney over the suggestion that rate hikes would be inevitable.
Health insurance consumers (like myself) in states like Texas can expect significant rate hikes, up to as high as 58%. Of course that’s on the high end. Texans will experience an average rate hike of a paltry 35%.
Obamacare was a hot ticket issue in the 2014 election that cost the Democrats the Senate majority. Republicans successfully tied incumbent Democrats seeking re-election to the President’s hallmark legislation. News of the upcoming rate hikes might influence down ballot races, but will unlikely affect the top of the ticket, as Hillary has her own awful version of health care reform.
As we’ve said many times before, the law’s disastrous ramifications on health insurance consumers are a feature of Obamacare, not a glitch.
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