Insurers say at least some of those increases were to account for the policy uncertainty brought by the Trump administration, which has indicated that it may hold back some routine payments to insurers and that it will reduce outreach to possible customers.
Complete market failure seems to have been averted: At least one insurer has agreed to sell health plans in every county of the country. But Republican critics of the law are right that many parts of the country will have just one insurer offering plans, and that single insurer may be charging very high prices for its products.
Most Obamacare customers won’t feel the sting of higher premiums, because government subsidies limit their exposure to a percentage of their income. But there are still millions of people who buy their own insurance and earn too much to qualify for subsidies. The rocky market will be worse for them, and possibly unaffordable.
Senators in the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee had been negotiating over a possible bipartisan deal to help stabilize the markets. The expected package would have guaranteed the disputed payments to insurers and provided states with some policy flexibility in future years.
But that effort was shelved by congressional leadership as part of the failed push to pass the Graham-Cassidy health care overhaul. Now, with contract signings imminent, it is probably too late for lawmakers to improve conditions much for next year. (On the flip side, it’s also probably too late for President Trump to create substantially more havoc for markets by declining to pay the insurance subsidies, as he has periodically threatened to do.)
The Trump administration has, so far, been a reluctant overseer of the Obamacare markets. It has slashed its budget for outreach and enrollment assistance for possible customers, meaning that consumers may have more trouble finding out when and how to sign up for health insurance. Its department of health and human services keeps sending news releases cheerfully noting the law’s shortcomings. (A recent one had the subject line “It’s not working…”)
Officials also recently announced that they expect to take the HealthCare.gov enrollment…