It seems like a lifetime since March 23rd, 2010. But thanks to a pretty significant bill signed that day, at least there are no lifetime caps on your health insurance anymore. In fact, there were so many rules and regulations inside Obamacare that benefited consumers instead of insurers that the GOP went absolutely insane trying to undo them. That’s no small wonder: Insurance companies gave Republican candidates and conservative groups nearly 37 million dollars in the last election cycle of 2015-16 alone.
But the one thing Obamacare didn’t do — couldn’t do — was clamp down on premiums. Not without changing the way the entire industry is regulated. The fact is, premiums have been skyrocketing for a long time, and for a simple reason. Insurance companies know you need them more than they need you. In other words, because they can. But an interesting thing happened after the ACA was signed: The rising cost of premiums slowed to less than half the growth rate they were undergoing during the Bush years. Why? Because more people were getting insured.
Republicans point to raw numbers and call it an increase that happened under Obama. But the premium increase from 2010 to 2016 was much, much smaller than it would have been without the changes to the system that Obamacare wrought. What will they point to now that premiums are on a fast track again? They won’t point to Republican policy or Donald Trump. But I will.
The Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-partisan, non-profit health care think tank, has been studying premium growth for nearly 20 years. In fact, if you’ve ever read stats on health care — who’s insured, median cost, what might happen if various bills were passed — you were likely looking at KFF data. And according to their latest study, there’s a definitive reason that premiums are going up at the rate they’re back to: Because Donald Trump is sabotaging the ACA.
Trump’s constant description of Obamacare as “failing” is already unhelpful. But his threats to stop cost-sharing subsidy payments are worse. And even worse than that, his persistent badgering of the GOP Congress to repeal Obamacare entirely — even without a replacement plan — has insurance companies scrambling to figure out how to stay in business. If Donald Trump got his way, after all, the number of people without health insurance in America would double in a very short time. And if you don’t have insurance, they don’t have a customer.
So what’s the effect of Trump’s sabotage? Premiums are about to go through the roof. Just by threatening to stop enforcing the individual mandate — the mechanism that makes Obamacare even work — Trump has caused insurers to request rate increases from regulators anywhere from 1.2 percent to 20 percent. And his threats to stop cost-sharing payments bumps that startling figure up to 23 percent.
For years, Republicans liked to point to any increase in premiums as the fault of Obamacare. But premium growth slowed as America got used to the idea of a larger risk pool, and it hasn’t started under Obama in the first place. Now we can point directly to the actions of Donald Trump as the reason premiums are once again on the rise.
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