SEATTLE – As Americans sign up during Open Enrollment for health insurance in 2018, those on the Obamacare exchange are seeing higher premiums. It’s similar to what happened a year ago, President Obama’s last year in office, when premiums went up an average of 25 percent.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, premiums in 2018 are rising an average of 18 percent for Gold and Bronze plans and 32 percent for Silver plans. President Trump blames the Affordable Care Act. When the price hikes were announced just prior to Open Enrollment, Trump tweeted, “As usual the Obamacare premiums will be up (the Dems own it) but we will Repeal and Replace and have great Health Care soon after Tax Cut!”
But many Democrats are trying to turn the tables.
In a report from the pro-Obamacare group called Protect Our Care, 20 states blame President Trump for at least part of the increases. Many insurance commissioners in states controlled by Democrats appear to be going even further. California’s Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones wrote: “2018 health insurance rates higher thanks to Trump and Republicans.” Washington State’s Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler issued a press release claiming President Trump “has taken deliberate steps to undermine the health care system and put lives at risk.”
“All of the negative things the Trump Administration has said since he came into office is affecting the market overall,” said Washington’s Deputy Insurance Commissioner Steve Valandra. “It’s made it unstable and created a lot of uncertainty and that’s something that health insurers don’t like.”
President Trump did discontinue cost-sharing subsidies, which were direct payments to insurance companies to defray some of the cost of providing health care. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners estimates the move added 12 percent to 15 percent to the cost of Silver plan premiums. Nineteen Democratic state attorneys general are suing Trump over the stoppage.
But the Trump Administration says it was only complying with a federal judge’s order, which declared the CSR’s or Cost Sharing Reductions to be illegal because Congress never appropriated the funding. President Obama ignored that fact and paid the subsidies anyway.
Republicans also point out that premiums have gone up every year under Obamacare.
“It’s Obamacare’s regulations that have more than doubled premiums over the last four, five years,” said Avik Roy from the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity, “and it’s the sloppy drafting of Obamacare that has led to the illegal cost sharing subsidies that the Obama Administration has been spending without authorization from Congress.”
Despite the finger pointing, consumers are still looking into and signing up for coverage. Washington State’s Health Benefit Exchange has received a steady stream of inquiries.
“We’re seeing traffic both on our website as well as the number of new applicants, and the call center has been getting a lot of calls, about 30 percent over where we were last year,” said Michael Marchand, Chief Marketing Officer of the Washington state Health Benefit Exchange.
Marchand says with health care being in the media so much recently, it’s driven up interest. He also thinks consumers are less interested in the politics and most just want a solution that works for them and their family.