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

Freight can’t wait

From the USW

From tumbledown bridges to decrepit roads and failing water systems, crumbling infrastructure undermines America’s safety and prosperity. In coming weeks, Union Matters will delve into this neglect and the urgent need for a rebuilding campaign that creates jobs, fuels economic growth and revitalizes communities.

A freight train hauling lumber and nylon manufacturing chemicals derailed, caught fire and caused a 108-year-old bridge to collapse in Tempe, Ariz., this week, in the second accident on the same bridge within a month.

The bridge was damaged after the first incident, according to Union Pacific railroad that owns the rail bridge, and re-opened two days later. 

The official cause of the derailments is still under investigation, but it remains clear that the failure to modernize and maintain America’s railroad infrastructure is dangerous. 

In 2019, 499 trains that derailed were found to have defective or broken track, roadbed or structures, according to the Federal Railroad Administration’s database of safety analysis.

While railroad workers’ unions have called for increased safety improvements, rail companies have also used technology and automation as an excuse to downsize their work forces.

For example, rail companies have implemented a cost-saving measure known as Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR), which has resulted in mass layoffs and shoddy safety protocols. 

Though privately-owned railroads have spent significantly to upgrade large, Class I trains, regional Class II trains and local, short-line Class III trains that carry important goods for farmers and businesses still rely on state and local funds for improvements. 

But cash-strapped states struggle to adequately inspect new technologies and fund safety improvements, and repairing or replacing the aging track and rail bridges will require significant public investment.

A true infrastructure commitment will not only strengthen the country’s railroad networks and increase U.S. global economic competitiveness. It will also create millions of family-sustaining jobs needed to inspect, repair and manufacture new parts for mass transit systems, all while helping to prevent future disasters.

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work