- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 9, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:



Remember when President Obama promised that health care premiums would drop if lawmakers passed the Affordable Care Act?

Yeah, well, no. They haven’t dropped and, in fact, could soon skyrocket.

Insurance companies nationwide are trying to win approval for huge increases, in some cases above 50 percent. Blue Cross and Blue Shield, for instance, seeks a 54 percent increase in Minnesota,  a 51 percent jump in New Mexico and 36 percent hike in Tennessee. Oklahoma wants a 31 percent rise; North Carolina 25 percent; and Illinois 24 percent, according to requests filed with the federal government and state insurance commissioners.

While the Obama administration says the rates are just requests that must be approved by governments, the Oregon insurance commissioner has already approved a 25.6 percent increase for Moda Health Plan Inc., which covers more than 200,000 people.

Laura Cali also approved a 30 percent hike for four other insurance companies and, in an odd move, ordered companies that hadn’t requested increases to do so.

“We share the concerns expressed through public comment about the affordability of health insurance in Oregon, and these final rates were approved in order to protect consumers from extreme rate increases in the future. Inadequate rates could also result in companies going out of business in the middle of the plan year, or being unable to pay claims,” she said in a statement.

“Our ultimate responsibility to Oregon consumers is to ensure that rates cover the cost of health care. Our final rate decisions reflect our commitment to ensuring that Oregonians can count on the coverage they purchase.”
Insurance companies are claiming that Obamacare brought the sickest onto the federal roles and are costing far more than expected (although opponents of the bill then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said we would have to pass before we’d know what was in it predicted exactly that).

“A study of 11 cities in different states by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that consumers would see relatively modest increases in premiums if they were willing to switch plans. But if they switch plans, consumers would have no guarantee that they can keep their doctors. And to get low premiums, they sometimes need to accept a more limited choice of doctors and hospitals,” the New York Times reported.

The Times said “insurers with decades of experience and brand-new plans underestimated claims costs.”

” ‘Our enrollees generated 24 percent more claims than we thought they would when we set our 2014 rates,’ said Nathan T. Johns, the chief financial officer of Arches Health Plan, which covers about one-fourth of the people who bought insurance through the federal exchange in Utah. As a result, the company said, it collected premiums of $39.7 million and had claims of $56.3 million in 2014. It has requested rate increases averaging 45 percent for 2016,” the paper wrote.

In addition to much higher premiums, Americans are also enjoying record high deductibles, some running as high as $15,000 (with many at or above $10,000). What’s more, government are allowing the mergers of large insurance companies, which experts predict will also drive up price as competition disappears.

“The companies insist that the results will enable them to operate more efficiently through the elimination of redundancies. But don’t expect your premiums to go down when the dust settles. In fact, if the past is prologue, premiums will go up,” Newsweek wrote this week. 

“The biggest beneficiaries will be the shareholders and a handful of top executives; they’ll make tens of millions of dollars on the day the transactions become final. Among the losers — in addition to the people enrolled in the insurers’ health plans — will be many of the employees of the acquired companies.”

And, of course, the American people. If only someone had seen this coming?!

 

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