The Obama administration admitted today that premiums for a crucial category of health care plans on HealthCare.gov will rise by 25 percent on average next year. That’s three times larger than this year’s price increases. Yet another serious blow to Obamacare.
For Barack Obama, the future of the Affordable Care Act, the hallmark legislative achievement of his presidency, will be a problem he leaves for his successor. If it’s Hillary Clinton, her challenge will be to find fixes to the law with a hostile Congress.
The Department of Health and Human Services report, released just two weeks before Election Day, shows on average exchange customers will have 30 plan options to choose from for 2017, down from 47 this year. The reality remains that insurers are raising prices and downsizing their presence on the exchanges as they try to stem losses from sicker-than-anticipated customers.
Former President Bill Clinton spoke about the problem with Obamacare last month.
“The people who are getting killed in this deal are small business people and individuals who make just a little bit too much to get any of these subsidies,” said Clinton while campaigning for his wife in Michigan. “Why? Because they’re not organized. They don’t have any bargaining power with insurance companies. And they’re getting whacked.”
Whacked is a good word for it. While Obamacare has expanded insurance coverage among the poor, it is a disaster for healthy Americans with higher incomes who receive less subsidies to buy private coverage.
“So you’ve got this crazy system where all of a sudden 25 million more people have health care, and then the people out there bustin’ it sometimes 60 hours a week end up with their premiums doubled and their coverage cut in half,” said Clinton. “It’s the craziest thing in the world.”
Higher costs and less coverage? Crazy indeed.
More worrisome is that major insurers, like Aetna, have backed out of state-based exchanges because of unsustainable financial losses. Obamacare had built in a three-year program to help cushion early insurance company losses. The thought was the risk pool, and the prices insurance companies charged, would stabilize.
But that hasn’t happened. The sickest continue to buy coverage while the healthiest, including many millennials, have not.
The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association reports that new enrollees under Obamacare had 22 percent higher medical costs than people who received coverage from employers.
McKinsey & Company also found that in the individual market, insurers lost money in 41 states in 2014, and were only profitable in 9 states.
As it stands right now, that statistic is likely to get even worse.
Next year, when a new president takes office, Obamacare will be in its fourth year, without subsidies, and almost certainly in a death spiral. A Congress that hates it is not going to rescue it. Bill Clinton knows it, and seemingly has begun to lay the groundwork for that reality.