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

An Invitation to Sunny Miami. What Could Be Bad?

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

If a billionaire “invites” you somewhere, you’d better go. Or be prepared to suffer the consequences. This past May, hedge fund kingpin Carl Icahn announced in a letter to his New York-based staff of about 50 that he would be moving his business operations to Florida. But the 83-year-old Icahn assured his staffers they had no reason to worry: “My employees have always been very important to the company, so I’d like to invite you all to join me in Miami.” Those who go south, his letter added, would get a $50,000 relocation benefit “once you have established your permanent residence in Florida.” Those who stay put, the letter continued, can file for state unemployment benefits, a $450 weekly maximum that “you can receive for a total of 26 weeks.” What about severance from Icahn Enterprises? The New York Post reported last week that the two dozen employees who have chosen not to uproot their families and follow Icahn to Florida “will be let go without any severance” when the billionaire shutters his New York offices this coming March. Bloomberg currently puts Carl Icahn’s net worth at $20.5 billion.

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Health Care Should Not Be A Bargaining Weapon

Health Care Should Not Be A Bargaining Weapon