Last week’s Consumer Power Report email addressed more fallout from the Obamacare disaster:
Today’s Wall Street Journal has one of the best updates I’ve seen on the impending rate shocks across the country:
Several big provisions in the law taking effect in six months affect rates for the estimated 20% of Americans who don’t have coverage through an employer, Medicare or Medicaid. Plans must be available to consumers regardless of their health and must cover certain items such as hospitalization, maternity care and prescription drugs. The exchanges are set to open Oct. 1 selling plans effective Jan. 1.
A review of rates proposed by carriers in eight states shows the likely boundaries for the least-expensive and most costly plans on the exchanges. The lower boundary is particularly important because the government wants to attract healthy people to the exchanges, and they may choose to pay a penalty and take the risk of going without coverage if they believe they can’t get an acceptable deal
For a 40-year-old single nonsmoker–in the middle of the age range eligible for exchanges–a “bronze” plan covering about 60% of medical costs will be available for about $200 a month in most places, the proposals show.
Though less generous than “silver” and “gold” plans on the exchanges, a bronze plan would still include fuller benefits than many policies available on the individual market today.
The challenge for the law is that healthy 40-year-olds can typically get coverage for less today, especially if they are willing to accept fewer benefits or take on more costs themselves. Supporters of the law say tighter regulation on insurance practices gives consumers more protection and is worth the extra cost, but they have to persuade people who don’t have an immediate need for health care of that. If only sick people buy into the new insurance pools, prices could shoot up.
Bob Laszewski, a Virginia health-care consultant and former insurance executive, said the new offerings were likely to anger people who had preferred lower-cost products that were no longer available.
“If a person in 2013 has a choice of buying a Chevrolet or a Cadillac health plan, and in 2014, they can only buy a Cadillac … are they going to be upset? I think the answer is, yes,” he said.
Virginia is one of the eight states examined by the Journal and offers a fairly typical picture.
In Richmond, a 40-year-old male nonsmoker logging on to the eHealthInsurance comparison-shopping website today would see a plan that costs $63 a month from Anthem, a unit of WellPoint Inc. That plan has a $5,000 deductible and covers half of medical costs.
By comparison, the least-expensive plan on the exchange for a 40-year-old nonsmoker in Richmond, also from Anthem, will likely cost $193 a month, according to filings submitted by carriers.
Liberals may argue that even though premiums may triple for some Americans, these individuals will be getting “better” insurance. But that’s not what then-Senator Obama promised–he said premiums would go down under his plan by $2,500 per family per year. Moreover, the Congressional Budget Office noted in 2009, well before the law passed, that premiums would go up in part because Obamacare forces individuals to buy more costly health insurance policies:
“Average premiums would be 27 percent to 30 percent higher because a greater amount of coverage would be obtained. In particular, the average insurance policy in this market [i.e., on exchanges] would cover a substantially larger share of enrollees’ costs for health care (on average) and a slightly wider range of benefits. Those expansions would reflect both the minimum level of coverage (and related requirements) specified in the proposal and people’s decisions to purchase more extensive coverage in response to the structure of subsidies.”
As much as the left is prepared to move the goalposts on this issue, the American people remain most concerned about the costs of premiums. Failure to address this problem is Obamacare’s Achilles heel, and it represents the primary reason that those who have discussed repealing the law continue to do so. Will Americans react vociferously to these rate increases? That depends on how much they connect it to the president’s law – and if opponents have any say in it, they will. ~ Benjamin Domenech