If Russian asset Donald Trump and congressional Republicans had not sabotaged the Affordable Care Act, premiums in the Obamacare markets would probably be going down next year. That’s the finding from Brookings’ Matt Fiedler in a new analysis.
Because of sharp premium hikes last year in preparation for Trump’s doing his worst, insurance companies are likely to have healthy profits this year, seeing a profit margin better than 10 percent in their ACA business this year, compared to 1.2 percent last year and losses prior to that. That kind of slow progress was predicted, by the way, that as the insurers settled into the law and the markets stabilized, they’d do just fine. They did better than fine, thanks to Trump’s sabotage and the measures they took to combat it. Those profits, by the way, come to a large extent at the cost of taxpayers, since the premiums for more than three-quarters of Obamacare enrollees are subsidized.
Since then, Republicans have repealed the individual mandate and Trump has expanded short-term, cheap plans. That’s throwing more spanners into the works, and it’s not clear as of yet how it’s all going to shake out. But what Fiedler has done is to figure out how the market would have been functioning in the pre-sabotage status quo. In that world, he finds that insurers probably would have reduced premiums by an average of 4.3 percent for 2019.
Premiums are falling in a few markets. The Advocate reports that premiums in Louisiana will fall by an average of 6.4 percent, after double-digit hikes in previous years. Minnesota will likely have lower premiums as well, because the state implemented a reinsurance program to help provide stability for insurers in the markets there. Which goes to show how smart policy can work.
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