Premiums set to rise amid health-law uncertainty

The Kaiser Family Foundation has compiled proposed insurance prices for coverage in 21 large U.S. cities next year. Insurers cite the Trump administration’s hostile policy messages as a reason for high prices.

Insurers are making final decisions about their health- care law rates for next year. So far, it looks as if many of them will be building in an uncertainty tax.

The Kaiser Family Foundation has compiled proposed insurance prices for coverage in 21 large U.S. cities next year. The rates remain subject to change as insurers and regulators continue to negotiate. But the Kaiser researchers have done similar analyses over the last few years and found the proposed rates to be roughly predictive of the national trend.

Two themes stick out: One is that, while insurance premiums will rise substantially in many cities, the increases are generally not bigger than they were last year. The other is that insurers are being quite explicit about citing the Trump administration’s hostile policy messages as a substantial reason for the higher prices.

In many states, insurers say they are asking for higher prices because they assume the White House won’t enforce the health-care law’s individual mandate, its rule that people who can afford it must buy insurance or pay a tax penalty. The carriers are also worried that the government will stop paying them cost-sharing reduction subsidies, payments that are the subject of a lawsuit between the executive branch and the House, and which the president has repeatedly threatened to halt.

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Alleigh Marre, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services, blamed the Obama administration for high insurance prices in a statement about the report.

“Since Obamacare went into effect under the previous administration, skyrocketing health care costs and fewer choices have become the norm,” she said. “This analysis confirms what we already knew — Obamacare is flawed, failing, and harming the American people. Inaction is not an option.”

Marre indicated that the administration’s preferred course of action would be a legislative overhaul of the Affordable Care Act. She did not provide any additional clarity on the cost-sharing subsidies or the mandate.

The insurers don’t agree how big the uncertainty tax should be, but in some cases it’s hefty. CareFirst Blue­Choice in Virginia, for example, says…

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