Give ObamaCare credit for consistency, if nothing else. With premiums escalating all over the country, the ObamaCare experience in 2017 will feel a lot like 2016, only more so. And this time, the New York Times’ Margot Sanger-Katz explains, not even the savviest health-insurance shoppers can keep themselves from getting screwed:
In the last few years, even though premiums in the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance marketplaces were rising, most customers could avoid a big price rise by shopping for a cheaper plan.
Next year, according to a preliminary analysis, that is going to be a lot harder.
Even someone who shopped wisely this year and is willing to switch plans to get the best deal next year is looking at an average premium increase of 11 percent, according to an analysis of rate filings in 18 states and the District of Columbia provided by the McKinsey Center for U.S. Health System Reform.
That’s more than double the increase McKinsey measured last year for the same plans in the same group of states.
Bear in mind that 2017 is the fourth year of ObamaCare exchanges. Democrats insisted that any risk-pool variations would largely work themselves out in the first three years, after which prices should have stabilized. Instead, premiums will shoot up faster than ever — and that’s on top of massive increases in deductibles which all but guarantee that few of those getting soaked will get anywhere near their money’s worth of benefits from the plans the government forces them to buy.
And, as Katz also points out, the above is the good news:
The national picture could be even worse. This analysis looks only at states that have publicly released all insurance filings for next year, and some of those states have the most stable markets. In many of the remaining 32 states with the health exchange plans, insurers have been requesting large price increases, and lower-cost insurers have left.
Some will cite the last trend as the reason for the large price increases, while others will point more accurately to the massive losses insurers have incurred from ObamaCare as the cause of both. Regardless of whichever explanation one prefers, the end result is that consumers have fewer choices than before the passage of the ACA. The Kaiser Family Foundation, which has been generally supportive of ObamaCare, makes that point clear in its latest analysis of the marketplaces:
However, assuming county-level enrollment holds steady from 2016 to 2017, a smaller share of enrollees will likely have a choice of three or more insurers in 2017 than in previous years. We estimate that 62% of enrollees in 2017 will have a choice of three or more insurers, compared to 85% of enrollees in 2016.
We estimate that 2.3 million marketplace enrollees, or 19% of all enrollees, could have a choice of a single insurer in 2017, which is an increase of 2 million people compared to 2016. Going into marketplace open enrollment in 2016, about 303,000 enrollees (2%) had a single insurer option.
Similarly, we estimate that the number of counties with a single marketplace insurer is likely to increase, from 225 (7% of counties) in 2016 to 974 (31% of counties) in 2017. Approximately 6 in 10 counties could have 2 or fewer marketplace insurers in 2017. The bulk of the increase in single-insurer counties is a result of the UnitedHealth exit, as the company was often the second insurer in rural areas.
Remember when the White House argued that ObamaCare was necessary to expand choice? Here’s Barack Obama in 2009, addressing a joint session of Congress (in the notorious “You lie!” speech):
Unfortunately, in 34 states, 75 percent of the insurance market is controlled by five or fewer companies. In Alabama, almost 90 percent is controlled by just one company. And without competition, the price of insurance goes up and quality goes down. And it makes it easier for insurance companies to treat their customers badly — by cherry-picking the healthiest individuals and trying to drop the sickest, by overcharging small businesses who have no leverage, and by jacking up rates.
Well, isn’t that … ironic. In my column for The Fiscal Times, I argue for using Obama’s measure to get rid of ObamaCare:
What does that say about the quality of care now under the ACA? Seven years ago, five insurers controlled “75 percent of the insurance market” in 34 states, which meant that more than five choices existed. Kaiser’s data shows that in 2017, only 15 percent of all enrollees will have more than five choices (from 33 percent in 2016), a dramatic drop thanks to the policy Obama pushed while promising the exact opposite outcome.
And one other note: In 2017, one hundred percent of Alabama will have only one insurer in the Obamacare exchange. …
Even for those who do get coverage, deductibles are so high that insurance only ends up covering catastrophic events and routine checkups that would cost just a few hundred dollars at most in a retail market. The ACA has not expanded choice but destroyed it, robbing Americans of their ability to gain insurance in a rational market and further eroding the buying power of the middle class.
On every level, Obamacare has proven an abject failure. Let’s apply Barack Obama’s 2009 measure and get rid of the system that has forced prices up while driving choice and quality down.