Two weeks before election day, the Obama administration confirmed that insurance premiums are set to increase by double-digits next year, despite the President’s signature healthcare reform law.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reported Monday that in 39 states where the government has set up Affordable Care Act exchanges, the average cost of purchasing the benchmark health insurance policy will rise by 25 percent next year.
“It’s over for Obamacare,” Donald Trump said on the campaign trail Monday night, striking a tune that Republican elders would likely appreciate.
Since its enactment, the Affordable Care Act has succeeded in cutting the rate of uninsured Americans by expanding access to state administrated Medicaid programs and providing premium support to Americans who can’t afford to purchase insurance. It also has provided more security to policyholders, preventing insurance company abuses.
The law, however, has not managed to bring down insurance prices.
Attempting to squash anxiety about rising costs, the White House noted that federal subsidies will also increase and help three-quarters of Americans find plans for less than $100 a month. Those making less than $47,000 a year qualify for premium support.
But just as worrisome for the administration is the lack of cooperation from health insurers.
The industry spent millions muscling Members of Congress during the initial Affordable Care Act debate in 2009. Although they didn’t succeed in defeating the law, they did ensure that the ACA would be palatable. By killing off the public option and mandating the purchase of health insurance, for example, the companies ensured they would have access to a large pool of new customers.
Years into the implementation of the law, however, those same companies are now working to sabotage the ACA. UnitedHealth Group, Humana, and Aetna have all reduced their operations of the health insurance exchanges. Their departures will bring down the total number of insurers on the exchanges from 232 this year to 167 in 2017.
As a result, HHS revealed that 20 percent of the more than ten million HealthCare.gov consumers would have only one health care company to choose from next year.
The inadequacies of the ACA flared up during the Democratic primary, when Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called for a single-payer system—a set-up that Obamacare explicitly sought to avoid.
Hillary Clinton accused Sanders of having a “theoretical debate about some better idea that will never, ever come to pass.” She promised to defend the ACA if elected, and to expand tax credits to help offset rising costs.
Bad news about Obamacare, though, could stifle Democrats’ momentum heading into Election Day as they try to retake the Senate. The latest reading from the Cook Political Report has Democrats poised to pick up 5-7 seats, a margin that would give them back control of the upper chamber.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, used the news of ACA premium hikes on Monday to needle his Democratic colleagues.
“While the president’s allies in Washington will try to spin the numbers, families across the country will be forced to figure out how to pay for such unaffordable insurance,” he said in a statement.