Regulator points the finger directly at Trump after approving massive health care rate increase

Aaron Rupar

Aaron Rupar Reporter, ThinkProgress

For years, Republicans have criticized Obamacare for making health care too expensive, misleadingly claiming that the law has led to skyrocketing costs. But now, the insurance industry and state regulators are complaining that it’s actually President Trump’s actions that are directly responsible for raising premiums.

Days after President Trump signed an executive order to allow people to buy skimpier, cheaper health care plans and confirmed the federal government will stop making critical subsidy payments to insurers, the Pennsylvania Department of Insurance announced it has approved a drastic rate increase for plans sold next year both on and off the the state’s Affordable Care Act exchange.

In comments made to the Philadelphia Inquirer, acting Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman traced the unexpected rate 30.6 percent increase directly back to President Trump’s decision to cut off the cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments insurers use to subsidize coverage for low-income people.

“This is not the situation I hoped we would be in, but due to President Trump’s refusal to make cost-sharing reduction payments for 2018 and Congress’s inaction to appropriate funds, it is the reality that state regulators must face and the reason rate increases will be higher than they should be across the country,” said Altman of the rate increase, which was approved Monday.

Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) also blamed Trump, telling the Inquirer that the sharp increase is “the direct result of President Trump’s sabotage of our health-care system,” while Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) could not be reached for comment. Before Trump’s action, rates were set to increase by 7.6 percent, the Inquirer reports.

While the rate increase will only directly impact a small percentage of Pennsylvanians who buy individuals plans, undermining the exchanges seems to be exactly what Trump wants to do. As former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon told an approving audience at the Values Voter Summit on Saturday, Trump’s decision to stop CSR payments is “going to blow that thing up — gonna blow those exchanges up, right?”

In August, the Kaiser Family Foundation analyzed the potential impact if Trump decided to stop CSR payments. They found that insurers operating under the assumption that CSR payments would cease had increased their rates somewhere between 2 percent and 23 percent to compensate.

Now that Trump has officially cut off the payments, Pennsylvania regulators aren’t alone in quickly approving premium increases. Oregon regulators also swiftly approved a 7.1 percent increase for 2018 following Trump’s announcement.

As CNN notes, most people who purchase coverage on the ACA exchanges won’t be impacted by these rate hikes, as they will still be eligible for subsidies from the government to help offset the cost of their premiums. Instead, the biggest losers are taxpayers as the federal government will have to spend billions more on subsidies to cover a bigger share of rising premiums. That’s why, according to the Congressional Budget Office, ending the CSRs will increase the federal deficit by $6 billion in 2018.

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Reposted from ThinkProgress

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work