When word began to spread last week that premiums for Obamacare policies would rise as much as 25 percent next year, the reaction — and overreaction — was swift and loud.
But the cries that Obamacare is dead or dying might be premature. Obamacare, also known as the Affordable Care Act, is incredibly complicated and a work in progress.
ACA has resulted in more people having health care, and that’s a positive. The high prices and other glitches are not.
It seems that the best course of action, given that the election is just over a week away, is wait to see who is president and what parties control one or both houses of Congress. Then the public needs to put pressure on leaders to fix what’s broken.
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Some insight as to how to make Obamawork better can be found right here in Washington state.
While the premium increases could be as high as 25 percent elsewhere, the premiums for individual health-insurance plans in Washington are expected to rise an average of 13.6 percent next year. Rates within the state health exchange are expected to jump a more modest 8 percent for midlevel plans, The Seattle Times reported.
State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler attributed the premium increases to insurers getting a realistic view of customers and their costs heading into the fourth year of enrollment under the Affordable Care Act.
Basically, growing pains.
“I do believe this year’s change is a one-time adjustment and that we’ll see premiums level off as insurers gain experience and more people get covered,” he said.
This state isn’t likely to see premium increases as high as other states or reduced coverage options because Washington has more choices.
“We had real competition in our market before the ACA,” he said. “So we had a running start that helped us.”
Thirteen health insurers have been approved to sell 151 individual and family plans in Washington for 2017, including nine insurers that will sell 98 plans through the Washington Healthplanfinder. Seven insurers will sell 56 plans outside the exchange, according to The Seattle Times.
In Washington, about 170,000 people were enrolled in the exchange last year, about 70 percent of whom were eligible for a subsidy to reduce the cost, said Michael Marchand, spokesman for the state exchange. Another 170,000 people have private plans outside the exchange.
The bulk of Washingtonians, about 5 million people, have health insurance through their employers or are covered through a Medicare program.
The projected premium increases don’t have to be catastrophic. Changes can be made. It must be addressed by the next president and Congress.
In doing so, they might look to Washington state as an example of how to do it better.