HEALTH

More Choices And Stable Premiums For ‘Obamacare’ Next Year

Oct 22, 2019, 11:07 AM | Updated: Jun 8, 2022, 5:00 pm
FILE (Getty Images)...
FILE (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Consumers will have more health insurance choices next year under the much-debated Obama health care law and premiums will dip slightly for many, the Trump administration announced Tuesday.

President Donald Trump was elected on a promise to repeal “Obamacare.” But despite his repeated efforts the program has stabilized three years into his administration. That may be short-lived.

The administration is asking a federal appeals court in New Orleans to overturn the entire Affordable Care Act as unconstitutional, an overhang of uncertainty clouding its future.

For now, the Department of Health and Human Services is touting a second consecutive year of positive-sounding numbers. An additional 20 insurers will participate for 2020, expanding consumer choice in many states, officials said. Nearly 70 percent of customers will have three or more insurers from which to pick a plan.

About 10 million people are covered through the health law’s insurance markets, which offer taxpayer-subsidized private plans for people who aren’t covered on the job. Former President Barack Obama’s namesake law will be 10 years old next year.

Premiums for a hypothetical 27-year-old choosing a standard plan will decline 4% on average in 2020 for states served by the federal HealthCare.gov website, the Trump administration said. About a dozen states run their own sign-up websites, but most rely on HealthCare.gov.

A low-cost midrange plan for that hypothetical 27-year-old will charge monthly premiums of $374 next year, officials said. The law’s income-based subsidies can drop that to around $50.

However, people who don’t qualify for income-based assistance must pay full price, and that’s before any deductibles and copays. Unsubsidized customers may just decide to go uninsured, particularly if they’re healthy.

A previous Republican Congress repealed the law’s unpopular penalty to get more people signed up — fines for going without coverage.

Six states will see premiums decline by 10% or more, officials said. They are Delaware, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Utah.

Three states — Indiana, Louisiana and New Jersey — will see premiums increase 10% or more.

Even as it pursues “Obamacare’s” demise in the courts, the Trump administration is trying to take credit for the program’s current stability.

“Until Congress gets around to replacing it, the president will do what he can to fix the problems created by this system for millions of Americans,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said. “The president who was supposedly trying to sabotage this law has been better at running it than the guy who wrote it.”

Independent experts say it’s more complicated than that.

They credit the Trump administration for working with a dozen states to approve waivers that can bring down premiums by setting up a backstop system to pay bills from the costliest patients.

However, experts say the original design of the law’s subsidies is probably the major stabilizing force. People eligible for financial assistance are insulated from price spikes because they pay only a fixed percentage of their income. Because their own costs didn’t change much, customers with subsidies kept coming back to the market through years of double-digit increases in list-price premiums.

“As long as the subsidies are in place the changes that are happening … are not going to push this market off a cliff,” Standard & Poor’s director and lead analyst Deep Banerjee said.

Experts say yet another factor is that insurers that have stuck with the program have learned over time how to operate profitably.

Although the program is stable, enrollment has been slowly eroding since Trump took office, from 12.2 million in 2017 to 11.4 million this year. The slippage has come mainly in the HealthCare.gov states, where the federal government runs sign-up season. Slashing the ad budget was one of the Trump administration’s early actions.

The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office has recommended that the administration follow standard federal practices by setting sign-up goals and actively managing the program to meet enrollment targets. Seema Verma, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said the administration doesn’t believe such targets are needed and instead her agency has focused on keeping the HealthCare.gov website running smoothly and improving the enrollment experience for customers.

Verma also disclosed that the administration has made some “minor” changes in how it reports data about the program. While those tweaks appear to be in the weeds, they’re likely to get close attention from Democrats who accuse Trump of “sabotage” of the health law.

Sign-up season starts Nov. 1 in most states and runs through Dec. 15. States that run their own open enrollment may have different dates.

The appeals court in New Orleans could issue its ruling during that time, but Azar said he’s not concerned even if the judges say the whole program should be tossed.

“Our messaging would be to keep calm and carry on,” he said, noting that the case is expected to go to the Supreme Court. “There will be no immediate disruption to anyone.”

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Health

The thousand-year-old manuscript has been returned to its home at the Kosinitza Monastery in Drama,...
Zoe Sottile, CNN

Stolen in 1917, this 1,000-year-old manuscript was just returned to its rightful owners

A 1,000-year-old manuscript looted during World War I has been returned to the Greek monastery from where it was stolen more than a century ago.
4 days ago
A dip in suicide rates in 2019 continued into 2020, but the CDC report, released on September 30, s...
Deidre McPhillips, CNN

US suicide rates rose in 2021, reversing two years of decline

A dip in suicide rates in 2019 continued into 2020, but a CDC report released on Sept. 30 shows that 2021 reversed most of that improvement and brought rates back to near-record levels.
5 days ago
Bry Hansen visits his son's grave in South Jordan. (Tanner Siegworth/KSL TV)...
Annie Knox and Daniella Rivera, KSL TV

The number of Utah kids and teens dying by gunfire hit a record high in 2020

The state hit a devastating milestone in 2020, recording the highest-ever number of shooting deaths among Utahns 18 and younger.
5 days ago
Harmoni Memmott went through seven months of chemotherapy at Primary Children's Hospital to beat a ...
Ayanna Likens

2-year-old beats cancer after receiving care at Primary Children’s Hospital

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and one 2-year-old in Tooele battled cancer and beat it after treatment at Primary Children's Hospital.
6 days ago
Woman chooses canned olives in the grocery store. (File photo)...
Brenda Goodman

FDA proposes updates to ‘healthy’ claim on food packages

The US Food and Drug Administration is proposing changes to the nutrition standards that foods must meet before they can carry the "healthy" label on their packages.
7 days ago
Gabriela Solis prepares a dose of the Jynneos monkeypox vaccine at an L.A. County vaccination site ...
AMANDA SEITZ Associated Press

Vaccine appears to protect against monkeypox, CDC says

U.S. public health officials say at-risk people who have received just one dose of the monkeypox vaccine have appeared to be significantly less likely to get sick from the virus. Still, on Wednesday they urged a second dose for full protection. It's the first look public health officials have offered into how the Jynneos vaccine is working against the monkeypox outbreak. The virus is primarily spread among men who have sex with infected men.
7 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Ask these questions before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Cloud storage technology with 3d rendering drawer with files in cloud...
PC Laptops

How backing up your computer can help you relieve stress

Don't wait for something bad to happen before backing up your computer. Learn how to protect your data before disaster strikes.
young woman with stickers on laptop computer...
Les Olson

7 ways print marketing materials can boost your business

Custom print marketing materials are a great way to leave an impression on clients or customers. Read for a few ideas to spread the word about your product or company.
young woman throwing clothes to organize a walk in closet...
Lighting Design

How to organize your walk-in closet | 7 easy tips to streamline your storage today

Read our tips to learn how to organize your walk-in closet for more storage space. These seven easy tips can help you get the most out of your space.
More Choices And Stable Premiums For ‘Obamacare’ Next Year