Health Insurance Premiums for 2018

Health Insurance Premiums for 2018

By Frank Knapp

Lauren Sausser of the Charleston Post and Courier has written a story about health insurance premiums that will be getting a lot of attention. But if you just read the headline, Affordable Care Act prices will skyrocket 31 percent in South Carolina next year, you will be missing the real story.

Here are the pertinent points to Ms. Sausser’s story.

The premium increase is only for policies offered on the Affordable Care Act Marketplace:

“The numbers published by the Department of Insurance don’t reflect the amount employees will pay for coverage through work…”

This is an average increase, some will be higher and some will be lower:

“The agency confirmed on its website Thursday that average premiums for HealthCare.gov polices…”

Almost all of the premium increases will be paid by the federal government, not the Affordable Care Act policyholder:

“The numbers published by the Department of Insurance don’t reflect … the significant discounts that most HealthCare.gov shoppers qualify for based on their income. In fact, a spokeswoman for BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina said that most people who rely on the federal marketplace for coverage will only end up paying about $10 more per month next year.”

Congress and President Trump, not the Affordable Care Act, are to blame for the increase:

“(SC) Insurance Director Ray Farmer said his agency wouldn’t have needed to approve the 31 percent increase if federal lawmakers had moved to extend the Affordable Care Act’s ‘cost-sharing reductions.’ That program, which was established …to lower the amount most HealthCare.gov customers pay for their policies, needs to be made permanent through 2019, Farmer said. It is currently renewed one month to the next.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly threatened to cut the payments off. That’s why health insurance companies across the country had trouble pricing their policies for next year, Farmer said, not knowing if the cost-sharing reductions would continue to exist.

Jim Ritchie, a former Republican state lawmaker and the executive director of the S.C. Alliance of Health Plans, blamed Congress for the price increases. ‘The inaction by Congress has created uncertainty in the market,’ Ritchie said. “Insurers have to plan for the most risk when they don’t have clarity.’”

Most of the premium increase is cause by Congress:

“About 20 percent of the 31 percent increase is tied directly to this problem, said Farmer, who testified before Congress last week about extending the cost-sharing reductions.”

Congress passing the Graham-Cassidy bill to replace the Affordable Care Act won’t stop the premium increase:

“The proposed Obamacare replacement bill, as written by U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Bill Cassidy, R-La., wouldn’t immediately impact the price of HealthCare.gov policies.”

Spread the word.

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Mr. Knapp is the President and CEO of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce.