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Dem on Obamacare Premium Hikes: ‘They Didn’t Know How to Gauge the Risk’

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) speaks at an election party in Falls Church, Va., on Nov. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

FALLS CHURCH, Va. — Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) said health insurance premiums are rising next year under the Affordable Care Act partly because Congress did not know how to “gauge the risk” when crafting the legislation.

Premiums are set to increase next year by an average of 25 percent nationally, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Insurance premiums in the state of Arizona are going up by as much as 116 percent.

Many of the letters individuals have received about the 2017 premium increases cite requirements under the Affordable Care Act as the reason for the changes to their plans. The law’s Minimum Essential Coverage (MEC) provision specifies the type of coverage insurance companies must offer under every plan it sells on or off of the public exchanges.

PJM asked Connolly if the government should allow insurance companies to cater plans to every individual’s specific needs.

“Well, I’m not sure if you’re right about the 25 percent. Some premiums are going to go up, some are going to go down, but that depends on where you live and your age, and you’ve got to remember that doesn’t factor in subsidies — more than half of the people on the exchange qualify for subsidies so they are not going to pay that, and overall premiums for insurance provided in the private sector healthcare have actually declined,” Connolly replied at the Virginia Democratic Party’s election night results event on Tuesday evening.

“Part of this is an adjustment because they didn’t know how to gauge the risk. And what happened was a lot of people who signed up for the exchange unfortunately were older and sicker, and we had hoped that younger people would broaden the risk pool. So I think a more aggressive effort has to be made to draw in younger, healthier people to get insurance,” he added.

Connolly was asked what changes he would support to improve the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.

“Any entitlement program like Social Security and Medicare over the years has been tweaked and improved and benefits added and new provisions provided, but we need the Republicans to play ball. They’ve got to cooperate,” he said. “So long as they take an obstructionist position that they are going to oppose anything having to do with Obamacare and their only reform is to repeal it, we are never going to get anywhere. So that makes it very hard to try to identify problems and address them.”

President-elect Donald Trump has called for the Affordable Care Act to be repealed and replaced, but in a post-election interview with the Wall Street Journal said he’s open to adjusting the current law. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said repeal is on the Republican agenda in the next Congress.

“It’s pretty high on our agenda, as you know,” McConnell said on Wednesday.