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Health insurance rates for some may spike 30% or more

20 October 2016

Donald J. Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, wants to repeal what he calls "horrible Obamacare", and his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, while supporting the law, has proposed substantial changes to reduce health costs for many consumers.

"It nearly gave me a heart attack when I opened up the envelope", said Scott Winters, West Michigan radio personality and realtor who is self-employed.

Health insurers had to decide if they would participate in ACA exchanges by September 23, but information about marketplace participation has not been made available despite the open enrollment deadline of November 1 approaching.

Premiums will go up an average of 15.9 percent next year for Wisconsin health insurance plans on the exchange, the insurance commissioner said earlier this month. If that percentage had stayed the same as in 2007, 23 million fewer people would now have public health coverage. As of March 31, the law covered 11.1 million people; an October 13 S&P Global Ratings report predicted that enrollment next year will range from an 8 percent decline to a 4 percent gain. Some customers fail to pay their first premium, and others drop their plan during the year because they get coverage elsewhere, or for other reasons.

More than 17,000 people in Lancaster County and about 12.7 million nationwide, many previously uninsured, now have coverage through the marketplace.

Those of you who have insurance through your employer or the government will see little to no change. Consumers' out-of-pocket costs are expected to climb in 2017 and some major insurers have signaled they are pulling out of the health insurance exchanges in a number of states.

"Ensuring rates are adequate but not excessive is critical to make sure consumers not only receive health insurance coverage at a reasonable price, but can count on the coverage they purchase", department director Patrick McPharlin stated in a news release.

Highmark, which has reaffirmed its commitment to continue offering marketplace plans, says losses on its marketplace products have exceeded $800 million since 2014, as the cost of treating enrollees outpaced revenue from premiums.

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"I know that there has been much talk and discussion about marketplace rate increases this year".

Instead of setting a goal for what it expects exchange enrollment to be by the end of 2017, as it has done in previous years, the Department of Health and Human Services said it expects an average of 11.4 million will be enrolled on any given month.

The only way to be eligible for subsidies is by selecting a plan through the marketplaces, and subsidies are available to individuals making up to $47,080 per year and families of four making up to $97,000.

Of the 12.7 million people who signed up in the last open enrollment period, which ended on January 31, only 10.5 million were on the rolls in June, a decline of 17 percent. A 32 percent hike went into effect this year.

A few insurance companies have even pulled out of the exchange, such as HMO plans by Harbor Health and UnitedHealthcare and PPO plans by Priority Health and Alliance Health, according to the state's insurance department.

At Investor's Business Daily, John Merline writes that "the entire decline in the uninsured rate for non-retirees since 2007 is due to the expansion of government health programs-mostly Medicaid" (italics in original).

Enrollment in the state and federal marketplaces is expected to grow by about a million people next year - from about 12.7 million to 13.8 million, according to federal estimates released Wednesday.