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Insurance official: 'Substantial' ObamaCare premium increases coming

Insurance official: 'Substantial' ObamaCare premium increases coming

A top insurance industry official said Wednesday that he expects “substantial” ObamaCare premium increases for 2019.

Kris Haltmeyer, a vice president at the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, said that the premium increases were in part due to the repeal of ObamaCare’s individual mandate in the Republican tax-reform bill in December. He also cited lawmakers’ failure to pass a bill aimed at shoring up the market, which fell apart earlier this year amid a partisan dispute over abortion restrictions.

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“With the repeal of the individual mandate and the failure of Congress to enact stabilization legislation, we are expecting premiums to go up substantially,” Haltmeyer said at a briefing for reporters.

He estimated that average premium increases nationwide will be in the “low teens,” but that there will be major variation across areas, ranging from the low single digits to up to 70 or 80 percent.

Haltmeyer said the premium increases are “related to the loss of the mandate and then underlying medical costs.”

“Those two things have the most impact on the rate increases,” he added.

Democrats have been blaming Republicans for the premium increases, making the issue a key part of their midterm strategy. Many rates are due to be finalized in October, shortly before the election.

Republicans have blamed the underlying ObamaCare law, and some have blamed Democrats for the failure this year to pass a bill lowering premiums earlier this year.

Republicans say Democrats refused to include standard language restricting federal funding for abortion, known as the Hyde Amendment. Democrats countered that the language actually would have in effect prevented insurers from offering abortion coverage at all.

Haltmeyer said another factor driving premium increases is the Trump administration’s move to expand short-term plans that do not meet ObamaCare requirements. Like repeal of the mandate, insurers warn that change will siphon off healthy people and raise premiums for those remaining in ObamaCare plans.