AP: Obamacare prices are stabilizing (mostly)

The Associated Press is out with an exclusive look at anticipated price hikes for Obamacare plans next year. The AP teamed up with Avalere Health to look at the numbers available from 47 states and found that in most parts of the country prices should go up modestly compared to the big, double-digit hikes of the last two years:


The analysis found a 3.6 percent average increase in proposed or approved premiums across 47 states and Washington, D.C., for next year. This year the average increase nationally was about 30 percent. The average total premium for an individual covered under the health law is now close to $600 a month before subsidies.

For next year, premiums are expected either to drop or increase by less than 10 percent in 41 states with about 9 million customers. Eleven of those states are expected to see a drop in average premiums. In six other states, plus Washington, D.C., premiums are projected to rise between 10 percent and 18 percent.

Insurers also are starting to come back. Nineteen states will either see new insurers enter or current ones expand into more areas. There are no bare counties lacking a willing insurer.

Even so, Chris Sloan, an Avalere director, says, “This is still a market that’s unaffordable for many people who aren’t eligible for subsidies.”

Nearly 9 in 10 ACA customers get government subsidies based on income, shielding most from premium increases. But people with higher incomes, who don’t qualify for financial aid, have dropped out in droves.

That last bit is the key point here. Yes, Obamacare may be stabilizing after two years of major price hikes, but the stabilization point is $600 per month (on average) for anyone not getting subsidies. It turns out not a lot of people are lining up to pay $7,200 a year for insurance that has an average deductible of $4,000. That’s why enrollment is about half of what the CBO initially predicted it would be. The only thing that made this plausible as a functioning policy was the individual mandate which is now gone.


But of course, plenty of people are happy to take that same insurance if the cost is dramatically lowered for them by a government subsidy. Here’s the breaking news from this long experiment in public policy: People like free (or almost free) stuff.

It has been so long that you may have forgotten this is not what Obamacare was supposed to be. Here’s how the NY Times put it back in 2016:

When Obamacare was developed, one goal was to allow middle-class Americans to use the new marketplaces to buy the same kind of health insurance they had at their jobs. People could retire early, or quit a corporate job and become a freelancer, and still have the great care and financial protection that come with high-end plans.

But six years into the health law, the reality is that a typical Obamacare plan looks more like Medicaid, only with a high deductible…

The bill said that benefits should be similar to those from employer plans. The law was supposed to help people like middle-class professionals hoping for a change. President Obama infamously promised: “If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period.” As networks of doctors narrow, that is getting tough for some shoppers.

What we’re actually ending up with is Medicaid 2.0, an expanded health program for the poor. And, hey, maybe we needed to expand Medicaid but if so it would have been nice to have that argument instead of all the gaslighting about choice and competition and keeping your plan if you liked it.


But it seems Obamacare has done what it was always really intended to do. It helped create a bridge to the left’s real goal: single-payer. Even the man himself is jumping onboard that train today. It’s almost as if this was the plan all along.

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