This year, premiums for mid-level “silver” plans on the HealthCare.gov insurance exchange rose 32 percent. President Trump deserves the lion’s share of the blame for this surge – at least according to a new report from the Urban Institute.
The left-leaning think tank claims that uncertainty about the Trump administration’s “enforcement of the law’s components, cessation of federal [subsidies to insurers], and administrative policy changes expected to reduce enrollment” forced insurers to pre-emptively hike premiums.
The notion that Trump wrecked an otherwise healthy Obamacare marketplace is ludicrous. Exchange plan premiums were skyrocketing long before Trump took office.
In 2014, the first year in which individual-market plans were offered through HealthCare.gov, premiums for the five least-expensive health plans rose 49 percent compared to the average price of the same individual-market plans in 2013. In 2015, premiums for second lowest “silver” plans rose 5 percent. In 2016, they rose another 7.5 percent. And then in fall 2016, before Trump defeated Hillary Clinton, insurers hiked premiums for 2017 plans by a whopping 25 percent.
All told, premiums more than doubled while former President Barack Obama was in the White House. His healthcare law, and its burdensome mandates, are to blame for these hikes.
Obamacare prohibits insurers from denying coverage to anyone, even sick enrollees they’re guaranteed to lose money covering. The law also prevents insurers from charging older patients more than three times what they would charge younger ones, even though older patients are typically five times as expensive to insure.
And insurers are required to sell health plans that cover a list of 10 “essential health benefits,” which cover everything from pediatric eye care to addiction therapy.
In effect, Obamacare’s mandates imposed massive new costs on insurers, giving them little choice but to raise premiums.
Criticizing Trump for rising insurance prices might be good politics, but it deflects blame from the true driver of premium hikes: Obamacare’s incoherent regulations.