Louisiana Obamacare premiums will drop next year

Average Premiums for Benchmark Obamacare Plans Will Drop in 2019                 

     

     Jonathan Bachman

The average premium for benchmark silver plans on Obamacare exchanges will fall by 1.5 percent next year, the Trump administration said Thursday.

Health insurance premiums for Healthcare.gov plans will drop 5.1% in Louisiana for the most commonly purchased plan next year, according to new data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

It also comes during a bitter midterm congressional campaign season in which health care is a central issue following last year's efforts by Republicans to repeal the ACA.

Eight states will experience premium decreases of 10 to 20 percent for the lowest cost silver-tier plan, according to CMS estimates.

A handful of other states, such as New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, will also see double-digit drops. Those silver plans are used by the ACA to set subsidies.

Charles Gaba, a Michigan-based blogger who tracks ACA sign-ups, noted that the numbers released by the administration were just one snapshot of the marketplace.

On the call with reporters, Verma also touted the administration's expansion of short-term, limited duration health insurance plans from under three months to up to three years.

But some states will see another round of increases.

Trump's focus on short-term plans is likely to sway consumers away from coverage they need, said Arizona Health Care Voters spokesman Rodd McLeod. The year before, rates had risen 24.4 percent and 28.9 percent respectively. Reinsurance plans help insurers pay for the biggest claims or the sickest patients, helping them bring down rates for their other customers.

Analysts have credited the slim premium increases insurers have announced so far this year as a correction to excessive 2018 rate hikes.

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Some experts fear that other actions the Trump administration took will hurt the market in the long run. Still, the moderating prices for the most popular coverage will be helpful, in particular, to middle-class Americans - about 1 in 5 ACA customers - whose incomes place them above the threshold for the law's insurance subsidies. In the coming days, CMS will be announcing more initiatives to help states, including more options for states to use 1332 waivers to improve their health insurance markets, Verma said.

Verma dismissed the idea that President Donald Trump's cut-off previous year of the cost-sharing reduction payments hurt the market, although the action was followed by a almost 40% jump in average premiums as insurers added the cost to benchmark silver plans in a move known as "silver loading". She said that caused carriers to drop rates on the exchange to be more competitive. "It's very logical that this happens when you have a new marketplace - a new store, you might say, with new products".

Despite the drop in prices, Verma said, premiums are still high.

"However, this is by no means a celebration", she added. Wisconsin, which had its 1332 waiver approved earlier this year, will see a drop in averages from $464 in 2018 to $440 for 2019. She replied, "We heard a lot of predictions that didn't turn out to be true".

"Individual market insurers are now so profitable that it would be hard for many companies to justify a rate increase", said Cynthia Cox, an insurance expert at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

In fact, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, insurance company profits are higher than they were before Obamacare.

Cox said some efforts by the Trump administration have made the marketplace more attractive to insurers, such as cutting in half the open-enrollment period and approving some states' reinsurance plans. For example, average premiums are dropping 26 percent in Tennessee but rising 16 percent in Delaware.

Nationally, premiums are expected to drop an average of 1.5 percent, the report said. "I've gotten at least a call a day from some health care enrollment center that sounds like it might be part of the exchanges but is not", Fish-Parcham said.

"While some have publicly been accusing us of sabotage, the reality is that we have been working hard to do everything we can to mitigate the damage caused by Obamacare", she added.

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