Hope you enjoyed the 4th of July, but now it’s time to get back to reality. Make that the new normal. In fact, at some point you almost have to get tired of reading about it, since I’ve clearly become tired of writing about it. But yes… in the new age of the Affordable Care Act your care is going to continue to be less affordable.
Health insurance companies around the country are seeking rate increases of 20 percent to 40 percent or more, saying their new customers under the Affordable Care Act turned out to be sicker than expected. Federal officials say they are determined to see that the requests are scaled back.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans — market leaders in many states — are seeking rate increases that average 23 percent in Illinois, 25 percent in North Carolina, 31 percent in Oklahoma, 36 percent in Tennessee and 54 percent in Minnesota, according to documents posted online by the federal government and state insurance commissioners and interviews with insurance executives.
The Oregon insurance commissioner, Laura N. Cali, has just approved 2016 rate increases for companies that cover more than 220,000 people. Moda Health Plan, which has the largest enrollment in the state, received a 25 percent increase, and the second-largest plan, LifeWise, received a 33 percent increase.
The President, for his part, was quick to insist that the answer to these increases is up to you, the consumer. It’s apparently our job to “put pressure” on state insurance regulators so they can scrutinize the rate increase requests. Yeah… that should do the trick. Meanwhile the Kaiser Family Foundation is still insisting that you’ll only see “modest” rate increases if you’re willing to switch plans. Of course, if you do you may not be able to keep the doctor you like. (Why does that sound so familiar?)
Meanwhile, liberals are starting to practice a victory dance as they see these increases as a pathway to some form of single payer or another. Since Aetna is looking to buy Humana, and United Health has been talking about buying both Cigna and Aetna, that sort of massive market share dominance could reduce competition to effectively zero with even higher rates driving more and more customers to the exchanges. If the entire system becomes untenable for the majority of citizens, then the liberal dream of a government operated single payer system could become viable again.
So why are we still dealing with rising prices when we were promised that costs would go down? (Or, in the revised language of the White House, at least not go up as quickly.) The insurance companies are shocked (!) to find that they are getting flooded with very sick customers who generate a lot of costs while young, healthy people simply aren’t signing up in the predicted numbers. Gee… if only someone had warned them about this.