- The Washington Times - Monday, May 15, 2017

A Koch brothers-aligned group launched an ad campaign Monday highlighting the potential for yet another round of rate hikes on the Obamacare exchanges next year, hoping to spur the GOP’s effort to repeal the program.

The 45-second digital spots from Freedom Partners, a conservative nonprofit, highlight early requests for higher premiums to argue the Affordable Care Act is fundamentally flawed and must be replaced with market-oriented reforms.

“Instead of making health care more affordable, Obamacare has caused premiums to soar. From exploding costs to coverage you can’t use, millions of Americans are being hurt by Obamacare, and the problems are only getting worse,” said Nathan Nascimento, vice president for policy at Freedom Partners. It’s time to repeal Obamacare and pass solutions that reduce prices, create more choices and give patients better quality care.”

Insurers must decide by late June whether to participate in Obamacare’s exchanges in many states, though some are already seeing requests for double-digit rate hikes.

For instance, CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield requested average rate hikes of 50 percent in Maryland, 35 percent in Virginia and 29 percent in D.C., while Anthem is seeking a 34-percent increase in Connecticut.

Rate hikes have been a rallying point for GOP leaders hoping to replace Obamacare this year.

Many Republican centrists cited skyrocketing rates and the exodus of major insurers like UnitedHealth Group, Aetna and Humana from the program to justify their support for a House GOP’s repeal bill that squeaked through on a 217-213 vote earlier this month, shifting the debate to the Senate.

Democrats say the Trump administration is driving up rates by keeping insurers on tenterhooks about key aspects of Obamacare.

Companies are worried President Trump will withhold “cost-sharing” payments that reimburse them for low-income customers’ costs, as he seeks leverage over Democrats who refuse to negotiate an overhaul of their 2010 law.

They’ve also cited Mr. Trump’s wavering commitment the individual mandate requiring American to get insured or pay a tax.

“Failure to enforce the individual mandate makes it far more likely that healthier, younger individuals will drop coverage and drive up the cost for everyone else,” CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield President & CEO Chet Burrell said in a statement earlier this month.

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