By RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR
WASHINGTON — Actions by the Trump administration are triggering double-digit premium increases on individual health insurance policies purchased by many people, according to a nonpartisan study.
The analysis released Thursday by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that mixed signals from President Donald Trump have created uncertainty “far outside the norm” and led insurers to seek higher premium increases for 2018 than would otherwise have been the case.
Republicans in Congress have not delivered on their promise to repeal and replace the Obama-era Affordable Care Act. Trump is insisting that lawmakers try again and that the health overhaul is collapsing. At the same time, he’s threatened to stop billions of dollars in payments to insurers. Some Republicans are considering fallback measures to stabilize markets.
Kaiser researchers looked at proposed premiums for a benchmark silver plan across major metropolitan areas in 20 states and Washington, D.C. Overall, they found that 15 of those cities will see increases of 10 percent or more next year.
The highest is a 49 percent jump in Wilmington, Del. The only decline: a 5 percent reduction in Providence, Rhode Island.
About 10 million people who buy policies through HealthCare.gov and state-run markets are potentially affected, as are 5 million to 7 million more who purchase individual policies on their own.
Those in the government-sponsored markets can dodge the hit with the help of tax credits that most of them qualify for to help pay premiums. But off-marketplace customers pay full freight, and they face a second consecutive year of steep increases. Many are self-employed business owners.
The report found insurer participation in the ACA markets will be lower than at any time since they opened for business in 2014. The average is 4.6 insurers in the states studied, down from 5.1 insurers this year. In many cases insurers do not sell plans in every community in a state.
The researchers analyzed publicly available filings through which insurers justify their proposed premiums to state regulators. Insurers are struggling with sicker-than-expected customers and disappointing enrollment, and an industry tax is expected to add 2 to 3 percentage points to premiums next year.
On top of that, researchers found that mixed signals from the administration account for some of the higher charges. Those could increase before enrollment starts Nov. 1.
“The vast majority of…