2017 rate hikes prove ObamaCare is one failure after another
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

Just a week before open enrollment begins, the Obama administration made some grim announcements about how the Affordable Care Act is faring. 

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Already, American families have grappled with skyrocketing health insurance costs and limited health insurance choices. They can expect for these problems to worsen dramatically over the next year, the Obama administration revealed Monday.

The “Affordable” Care Act has drastically failed to deliver on its promises of cost-effective insurance, and the Obama administration conceded on Monday that pre-subsidy premiums will skyrocket by an average of 25 percent nationwide.

American families will feel the pain. After polling 20,000 consumers, Morning Consult reported in September that the top budget concern for Americans was the rising cost of health-insurance premiums. Likewise, an eHealth Survey found that the top priority for 54 percent of American families was a low-cost insurance premium.

Monday’s announcement also showed just how tough it will be to persuade millennials to buy insurance and pay into the common pot.

In Arizona, a 27-year-old who paid $196 without subsidies this year for a benchmark plan will pay a $422 next year for the same coverage — a head-spinning 116 percent rate hike.

It’s tough to blame young adults who, seeing their premiums soar for overkill insurance, will choose instead to buy less comprehensive coverage off the exchanges, pay the fine, and still save money.

Despite news of these staggering premium increases, a spokesman for Health and Human Services insisted that health coverage would remain affordable, costing less than $75 a month for most people. Yet that statistic comes with some huge caveats.

For starters, it’s valid only after factoring in the subsidies — subsidies that will be financed, in large part, off the backs of the very millennials who are already being bullied into paying for more excessive, expensive health insurance than they need.

Second, to make the $75-for-70-percent statistic work, HHS had to concede that three-fourths of families could secure savings by downgrading their level of coverage, opting for a plan that offers less than what they’d initially selected.

But many of those who initially signed up for gold or silver coverage did so because they know they need more extensive coverage to meet their health needs. Being forced into skimpier coverage won’t really help those patients control their long-term health-care costs.

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Moreover, part of the reason for the massive premium hike is that Obamacare enrollees have been considerably older and sicker than the federal government anticipated. Without young, healthy buyers to offset health-care costs, insurers can’t really get around consistent premium hikes.

In 2016 alone, the top four insurers reported at least $1.75 billion in projected losses. So untenable is this financial equation that many insurers have decided to sit out on Obamacare.

Monday’s announcement included the revelation that this year, 28 more insurers are dropping off of the exchanges, including United Health Group, Humana and Aetna. We’re feeling the attrition. The Affordable Care Act launched with 232 participants. It’s now down to a measly 167.  

As the Wall Street Journal noted, this means that “an unprecedented number of consumers … are seeing their current plans cancelled”— so many, in fact, that the federal government took the desperate step of extending the deadline for families with cancelled health plans to shift to a viable Plan B.

Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that the Plan B will include patients’ preferred physicians or hospitals. In fact, one in five consumers will have only a single health-care provider to “choose” coverage from.

So much for President Obama’s claim:

“If you like the plan you have, you can keep it. If you like the doctor you have, you can keep your doctor, too. The only change you’ll see are falling costs as our reforms take hold.”

It gets worse.

In May, the Kaiser Family Foundation warned that 70 percent of counties likely to be left with just one insurer are rural, meaning their residents already face major obstacles to health access.

Even with multiple options, these patients often travel long distances to visit. Now, many Americans in Wyoming, Oklahoma and other largely rural states will have an even deeper dearth of options.

Critics of the health law have long warned of these predictable, harsh economic realities.

Regardless, the Obama administration has over-promised and under-delivered. Monday’s announcement provided more evidence that Obamacare is failing to provide Americans with affordable, accessible health coverage.

Melchior is a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.