This fall insurance carriers will have to announce next year’s premiums for the Obamacare exchanges. So far it’s looking like big rate increases are ahead.
In New York, for example, the hikes will be huge. The New York Times recently reported:
Some New Yorkers are in sticker shock after receiving notices from their insurance companies saying that they have asked for significant rate increases through the state’s health exchange next year.
The exchange, which has prided itself on being affordable, is now facing requests for increases as high as 28 percent for some customers of MetroPlus, a new entry to the individual insurance market and one of the least costly — and most popular — plans on the exchange this year. . . . Over all, including plans inside or outside the exchange, insurance companies asked for average rate increases of 13 percent in 2015, the state’s Financial Services Department said Wednesday.
Given that we don’t have accurate information about who signed up for the exchanges — yet another problem — it’s hard to see exactly how carriers will assess their costs. But contrary to Obama’s promises, the rates for individual plans offered through the exchanges are going up, not down.
James Capretta of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and frequent critic of Obamacare explains, “The insurers are finding elevated claims costs for their initial enrollments. Not surprisingly, the most eager to sign up for coverage were folks who felt they could use the insurance right away for health services.” He estimates that “the rates for the big plans are in the 10 to 15 percent range in many places, but there are smaller players who are bidding low in a lot of places to try to gain market share. They are counting on the risk corridor funding to bail them out when they inevitably lose money.” (Another promise sure to go the way of “if you like your plan you can keep it” will be estimated costs to taxpayers.) The notion that Obamacare has reduced the rate of growth for these plans doesn’t mesh with reality. Capretta notes, “Most individual market plans were probably going up about 6 to 8 percent per year.”
Now would be a fine time for the House to come up with its alternative to Obamacare. It’s not even necessary to put it all in legislative language. But it should fit on one page and contain the essential elements of all the conservative health-care alternatives: 1. Repeal Obamacare. 2. Give the same tax treatment to individually purchased health-care plans as employer-provided plans get. 3. Allow a return of catastrophic plans, which are ideal for young and healthy people. 4. Give people with preexisting conditions assurance that they will be insurable through high-risk pools and give protection to those who remain continuously insured under at least a catastrophic plan. 5. Allow governors to experiment with Medicaid to reduce costs and fraud and improve care. 6. Introduce a cap on the income exclusion for employer plans. (Capretta previously wrote, “This approach would allow these plans to continue operating as they do today, just with a greater incentive for cost discipline. The upper limit could be set to affect the most expensive plans (such as plans with premiums in the top tenth or twentieth percentile, by cost.”)
Virtually nothing Obama promised about Obamacare has come to pass. Republicans who want to win in November and then have a mandate to redo health-care reform would be wise to refocus on Obamacare’s unkept promises and present an alternative that is simple and effective.