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40% Increase In Premiums Highlight Need For A Better Healthcare System

Below is the press release from the NH Department of Insurance explain the massive spike in healthcare premiums, specifically on those who get insurance through the ACA marketplace.  Below that is my opinion on what we can do to fix this problem. 


Federal Government Announces 2018 Rate Increases

CONCORD, NH – NH Department Of Insurance Press Release  The federal government today published information on proposed rate increases for New Hampshire’s health insurance exchange in 2018, showing that consumers in the individual market may face increases of more than forty percent.

“Today’s news about rates is alarming, especially for the 94,000 New Hampshire residents who obtain their insurance through the individual market, but unfortunately, it does not come as a surprise,” said Insurance Commissioner Roger Sevigny. “A number of factors have led to rate increases for 2018 in New Hampshire and across the country, most notably the continued uncertainty at the federal level. My staff and I have been actively engaged to identify options to lessen the impact on the thousands of families who rely on health insurance through the state exchange.”

The 2018 rate information released today by the federal government details proposed increases to benefit plans that are submitted by insurance companies operating on the exchange.  (The New Hampshire Insurance Department is prohibited by law from releasing rate information until Nov. 1.)  A benefit plan is a specific plan that a New Hampshire resident would select for enrollment, such as a bronze, silver, or gold level metal plan.

Three companies have announced their intentions to offer plans on the 2018 exchange in New Hampshire: Ambetter, Anthem, and Harvard Pilgrim. A fourth, Minuteman Health, also has proposed rate increases listed on the federal site, but those plans will not be available to consumers, as the company announced in June that it would stop offering plans in 2018.

The information published today by the federal government shows that some of the state’s insurers have submitted benefit plans for the individual market with substantial increases. The New Hampshire Insurance Department looks at premiums each year from a market-wide perspective, comparing the median premium for a silver-level plan covering a 40-year-old non-tobacco-user.  For 2017, the median premium at this level was $335; the median premium at this level for 2018 would be $479, based on the carriers’ initially proposed rates.  If these rates are ultimately approved, this would represent a 43% increase between next year’s and this year’s median premium in the individual market.

Today, the Department issued guidance permitting insurers to assume the federal government will not be funding Cost Sharing Reductions (CSRs) in 2018.  In response, insurers might adjust silver level plan rates before the deadline for amending rate filings.

The New Hampshire Insurance Department has taken action in recent months to call policymakers’ and consumers’ attention to the impending rate increases and the possibility that companies might withdraw from the exchange in 2018. In June, the Legislature authorized the Department to create a market stabilization plan, and last month, the Department publicly shared its plan to reduce rates and promote stability in the individual market in 2018. Today, the Joint Health Care Reform Oversight Committee authorized the Insurance Department to pursue federal waivers in support of a market stabilization plan, but without relying on an assessment of health insurance carriers.


A completely new healthcare system for all Americans

The above press release from the NH Department of Insurance shows that our current system of private insurance is unsustainable.  A 40% increase in one year. Seriously WTF?  What we do not even know yet is how much out of pocket costs will also increase next year.  Out of pocket expenses include co-pays, co-insurance deductibles, and prescription costs.  These can cost people thousands of dollars on top of their thousands of dollars in premiums.

There is no doubt that Republicans are going to blame Democrats and President Obama for this increase while Democrats will blame Republicans for failing pass meaningful changes to the ACA to stabilize the marketplace.

But while I blame both of them for failing to do what is best for America, the majority of the blame falls directly on the private insurance corporations.  They are raking in obscene profits, continually increasing premiums to maximize their profits.  Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield reported $1 Billion in profits during the first quarter of 2016. That is a 44% increase in profits.

The corporations are shelling out hundreds of millions to lobbyists and politicians to prevent them from passing meaningful legislation that would help solve our problems.  For example, Congress has failed to pass legislation allowing medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug prices, which other countries do, saving them billions annually.  In 2016, the health products, insurance and pharmaceuticals industries spent a combined $400 million on their lobbying efforts.

Are you still surprised that Congress cannot pass meaningful healthcare reform?

This 40% increase combined with the insurance companies record breaking profits last year make it glaringly obvious that we need to move to a single payer system.  With a less than 2% overhead, Medicare is one of the most efficient programs in the government. With additional changes, like allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices, the cost of healthcare would drop dramatically.

It is time for America to move to a national universal healthcare system. It is time for Medicare For All.

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