The PJ Tatler

Most Obamacare Premiums to Rise

And we were all wondering why this information was deliberately delayed until after the election? Not.

I get enormous satisfaction from the fact that the efforts by President Obama to mask bad news about Obamacare before the election didn’t do any good anyway; the Democrats still took a massive thumping. And those most vulnerable Democrats he was trying to protect — red state Democratic Senators — all went down to defeat.

About 12 hours before the federal Obamacare website opened for business and began to offer insurance policies, the administration released data on premium increases consumers can expect. And as the New York Times reports, most people who purchased insurance through healthcare.gov or the state exchanges are looking at increases of up to 20%.

An analysis of the data by The New York Times suggests that although consumers will often be able to find new health plans with prices comparable to those they now pay, the situation varies greatly from state to state and even among counties in the same state.

“Consumers should shop around,” said Marilyn B. Tavenner, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which runs the federal insurance exchange serving three dozen states. “With new options available this year, they’re likely to find a better deal.” She asserted that the data showed that “the Affordable Care Act is working.”

But Republicans quickly pounced on the data as evidence of the opposite.

“Last year, many who liked their plan were surprised to learn they couldn’t keep it,” said Senator Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, who is in line to become chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. “This year, many who like their plan will likely have to pay more to keep it.”

The new data means that many of the seven million people who have bought insurance through federal and state exchanges will have to change to different health plans if they want to avoid paying more — an inconvenience for consumers just becoming accustomed to their coverage.

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A 40-year-old in Nashville, with the cheapest midlevel, or silver plan, will pay $220 a month next year, compared to $181 a month this year, for the same plan.

The least expensive plan is offered by another insurer, Community Health Alliance, one of the so-called co-op plans created under the federal law. It offers coverage for a monthly premium of $194.

But the lower premium means that consumers will have to pay a much larger annual deductible, $4,000, rather than $2,000. A policyholder who becomes seriously ill or has a costly chronic condition could pay hundreds of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses.

We’ve been hearing for a couple of months that Obamacare premiums were going to be on the rise, but what wasn’t known was the extent of the price increases. Of course, finding another plan with comparable costs to your current plan necessarily means seeing your deductible — already higher for most people than under their old plans pre-Obamacare — climb even higher. The goal is to force Americans not to use medical services unless they absolutely have to. Call it “pocketbook rationing” — not going to the doctor or delaying a procedure because your out of pocket expenses are too great.

They have already drastically reduced estimates of the number of Americans who will sign up for Obamacare this year. The CBO estimated 13 million total consumers would be enrolled in Obamacare by the end of 2015. The administration is now saying they expect no more than between 9 million and 9.9 million to be enrolled. That figure is not quite low enough to send Obamacare into a death spiral, but it could very well lead to even higher premiums next year.