Top Insurance Official Warns of Coming ObamaCare Premium Hikes

A top executive at the trade group representing health insurers on Monday warned of premium increases for ObamaCare plans next year, saying the situation is “not a pretty picture right now.”

Matt Eyles, senior executive vice president of America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), said that insurers “want to make sure people have access to coverage at the most affordable price, but that also has to reflect what the reality is right now and it’s not a pretty picture right now.”

Eyles, who will become CEO of AHIP on June 1, blamed several policies advanced by Republicans in Congress or the administration for the problems.

Speaking at an event hosted by The Atlantic, he noted the repeal of the individual mandate in the tax bill in December, which is expected to lead to less healthy people signing up, as well as initiatives from the Trump administration to expand access to cheaper, skimpier plans known as short-term plans, which have also raised fears of siphoning away healthy people and causing an increase in premiums.

The premium increases are set to be announced in October, shortly before the midterm elections, and Democrats are hoping to capitalize and blame Republicans for the spikes.

Insurers have warned that premiums could increase by nearly 30 percent for ObamaCare plans, although many people receive subsidies that shield them from those increases. The hardest-hit are people who make too much income to qualify for subsidies.

“When you think about things like the individual mandate going away, some of the other proposed rules that are being put in place, whether it be around association plans, short-term policies, it’s just still a nasty soup right now that’s brewing and we’re looking ahead to 2019 and it’s not a really great picture right now,” he said. He noted that “a lot of companies are committed to the market” but indicated they might need to raise premiums to deal with the instability.

He lamented that Congress did not pass a bill aimed at stabilizing markets and lowering premiums in the omnibus government funding package that passed last month.

Lawmakers from both parties had worked for months on that bill, but it eventually fell apart in large part due to a dispute on whether to apply abortion restrictions to the new funding.

Eyles did not apply blame to one party or the other for the failure, but noted AHIP had pushed hard for a bill.

“We are concerned about 2019 and I think that was why we worked so hard up through the omnibus package and pushing as hard as we did,” Eyles said.

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