POLITICS

Obama health czar: Obamacare is driving up insurance rates before it drives them down

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Joel Gehrke

President Obama’s health care adviser during the Obamacare debate admitted that health insurance rates are rising in anticipation of the implementation of the health care law, but argued that it’s because the law will lower rates later.

“[It's] in anticipation of 2014 and the fact that we’re going to have real competition in the exchanges and rates are going to come down,” Dr. Zeke Emanuel, former White House health care adviser and brother of former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, said on Morning Joe when asked why insurance rates are rising as much as 25 percent. “It’s in anticipation of this dramatically changed marketplace and I think that’s what they’re doing. Everyone is sort of [saying] ‘well. we don’t know what the future is, so let’s lock in as much money as we can.”

Emanuel’s suggested that state regulators aren’t doing enough to monitor premium increases, but that explanation doesn’t account for the fact that federal regulators must also sign off on premium increases.

“Now, insurance companies are required to justify rate increases of 10 percent or higher,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement in May.  “It’s time for these companies to immediately rescind these unreasonable rate hikes, issue refunds to consumers or publicly explain their refusal to do so.”

Emanuel added that it’s not merely a problem of greedy insurance companies and lazy regulators. “The second reason is that it’s for a segment which is more risky — small businesses and individuals — not for big employers, where the pricing is a little smoother,” he said.

Forbes’ Avik Roy notes a new actuarial study showing that Obamacare is driving up premiums. “Our core finding is that young, single adults aged 21 to 29 and with incomes beginning at about 225 percent of the FPL, or roughly $25,000, can expect to see higher premiums than would be the case absent the ACA, even after accounting for the presence of the premium assistance,” Kurt Giesa and Chris Carlson wrote in the latest issue of Contingencies, the American Academy of Actuaries’ bimonthly magazine.

Giesa and Carlson also found that Obamacare “may increase premiums by roughly 17 percent to 20 percent for those who have preferred rates because of lower-than-average health risks” — that is, young people.

Contrary to what Emanuel said,that rate increase for young people will be exacerbated by the health insurance exchanges set to begin operating in 2014.

“I have always said when looking at this bill, that if I were a young person, I can see elements of this bill that I wouldn’t like in the short run,” Henry Aaron, vice chairman of the D.C. Health Benefits Exchange Authority, which is setting up the federal exchange in D.C., told The Washington Examiner as he confirmed that premiums for younger, healthier people will rise because of the law.

 

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