- The Washington Times
Friday, August 11, 2017

The uncertainty sown by President Trump over health payments is causing double-digits premiums increases for Obamacare customers next year, according to new reports this week that could undercut his hopes of blaming Democrats as the law spirals.

Voters also are increasingly looking for a mend-it, don’t-end-it approach to the 2010 health law, saying both parties should work together on fixes.


Mr. Trump has insisted Democrats who passed the law will shoulder the blame as consumers face dwindling choices and rising premiums, but a Kaiser Family Foundation survey said insurers are now reacting to the moves Mr. Trump may make.

Companies who fear that Mr. Trump would cut off critical reimbursements jacked up their requested rates from 2 percent to 23 percent, Kaiser said.

And insurers who predict Mr. Trump will relax the “individual mandate” requiring Americans to get health insurance could raise premiums by as much as 20 percent more, the nonpartisan analysts said.

The level of uncertainty about Mr. Trump “is far outside the norm,” Kaiser concluded.

“It’s not unusual for the uncertainty to represent about half of the overall premium increase,” said Cynthia Cox, who co-authored the study.

With the Trump administration already spawning changes, Americans are increasingly looking for fixes.

Nearly eight in 10, including about half of Trump supporters, say the president and his GOP allies should make the current health care law work, according to a Kaiser poll being released Friday.

Mr. Trump’s threat to withhold the “cost-sharing” reimbursements from insurers gets a dim view, with more than 60 percent rejecting that tactic.

The survey, Kaiser’s first since the stunning collapse of Republican efforts to repeal and replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act, also found 69 percent say the GOP should focus on improving Obamacare’s web-based exchanges, compared to just 29 percent who want Republicans to continue their plans to scrap the law.

Taken together, the study and poll findings suggest Mr. Trump risks weakening his main line of attack against former President Barack Obama’s signature program — that it is collapsing under its own weight, so Democrats better come to the negotiating table or risk blame for a “death spiral” of their making.

“If Trump would just let Obamacare take its natural course, it would become obvious that the health insurance exchanges are not at all stable,” Robert Laszewski, a health policy consultant in Alexandria, Virginia. “Instead, he gives his political opponents all of the ammunition they need to cloud the issue and legitimately point to his meddling.”

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee wasted no time in seizing on Kaiser’s premium report, arguing that Mr. Trump and his GOP allies were putting their political interests ahead of the people they serve.

“If they were serious about making health care more affordable, they would work across the aisle to strengthen markets and eliminate the uncertainty that’s driving up costs,” said DSCC spokesman David Bergstein. “Republicans running for Senate own these expensive rate hikes, which will impact voters as they prepare to go to the polls next fall.”

Kaiser analyzed rate requests for silver “benchmark” plans that will be offered in 20 cities in 2018, and found 15 of them have proposed rate increases of at least 10 percent.

The highest proposed increase was 49 percent in Wilmington, Delaware.

The proposals are subject to review by state regulators and don’t account for the taxpayer-funded subsidies that will cover most of the costs for roughly 10 million people who seek their insurance on the exchanges. Up to 7 million more people buy coverage off the exchange but don’t qualify for subsidies.

Analysts say the markets, on balance, seem to be improving, with some insurers on course to be profitable or at least break even this year after charging much higher rates.

But some insurers are still struggling as Obamacare has failed to win over young and healthy enrollees the companies were counting on.


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