- The Washington Times - Friday, October 26, 2018

President Trump’s fiddling with Obamacare will cause premiums for mid-tier health plans to be 16 percent higher than they would have been if he’d left the program alone, a nonpartisan study said Friday.

After years of sticker-shock on President Obama’s legacy program, overall rates will rise modestly or even fall in some areas next year.

Yet premiums for mid-priced silver plans “would be substantially lower still if not for several Trump administration-backed changes to private insurance markets,” the Kaiser Family Foundation said.

Analysts studied the market effects of Mr. Trump’s decision to cancel “cost-sharing” subsidies for insurers, expand the availability “short-term” insurance and “association” plans and goad the GOP-led Congress into gutting the “individual mandate” penalty for shirking insurance.

Each of those decisions threaten to siphon healthy people out of the program or make business more costly for insurers, so plans adjusted their rates accordingly.

In real-life terms, a 40-year-old who purchases a benchmark silver plan on HealthCare.gov could have been paying of $427 per month next year, instead of the $495 estimated by the Health and Human Services Department, according to Kaiser.

Democrats latched onto the study as proof that GOP’s actions are inflicting real pain, as both sides grapple for the upper hand on health care before Election Day.

Trump and Republicans are lying to voters about their health care sabotage,” the Democratic National Committee said in an alert about the study.

Republicans are straining to convince voters they can repeal and replace Obamacare with something more affordable for everyone, while making sure people with preexisting conditions are covered and don’t face higher premiums.

The GOP struggled to pull that off in 2017, and Obamacare is more popular than ever, so Democrats see an advantage.

Their “sabotage” mantra was undermined, however, by forecasts that show Obamacare is stabilizing under Mr. Trump, after insurers over-priced in earlier rounds.

The administration has claimed credit, though, pointing to Mr. Trump’s push to stabilize the markets by tightening up eligibility and cleaning out the parts of Obamacare that were unattractive or burdensome.

Democrats have been forced to reshape their message, saying the grass would be even greener in a world where Mr. Trump didn’t mess with their signature program.

Kaiser analysts said overall, premiums for all Obamacare-compliant plans — on and off the exchanges — will be 6 percent higher than they otherwise would have been.

“In their rate filings, insurers explicitly reported that the higher rates were the effects of the repeal of the individual mandate penalty and the expansion in the availability of short-term and association health plans,” the foundation said.

Kaiser said it’s a “conservative estimate” of the fallout from Mr. Trump’s governance, since some insurers also increased premiums in 2018 based on the belief the individual mandate “might be repealed or weakly enforced.”

More than eight in 10 Obamacare customers qualify for federal subsidies that slash their premium bills and rise when rates go up. In some cases, they can find better deals because of the ballooning subsidies.

Taxpayers foot the bill, however, and people who earn too much for subsidies and buy insurance on their own will take it on the chin.

The Trump administration says those people are the forgotten men and women of Obamacare. That’s why it decided to extend cheaper options that don’t cover the full suite of benefits that Mr. Obama’s law mandates.

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