Obamacare Activists To Insurers: Get a Grip

obamacarehurtAs the Denver Post’s Electra Draper reports, local health care advocacy group Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, a major proponent of the Affordable Care Act reforms to health insurance, is fighting back against insurance companies proposing hefty increases in insurance premiums for 2016:

A Colorado consumer advocacy group says insurance companies proposing 20 percent to 30 percent price hikes on 2016 health benefit plans can’t justify them.

The pent-up demand for care unleashed in 2014 is lessening, the group said Tuesday.

“We’re asking the state to scrutinize the fact that they could have a healthier pool in 2015,” said Colorado Consumer Health Initiative director Adela Flores-Brennan…

State data show that insurers submitted average premium changes ranging from a decrease of 5.1 percent to increases of as much as 34 percent.

Consumer Health Initiative, an advocate for the health care reforms found in the Affordable Care Act, submitted comments to the insurance division late Monday saying its main concern is that carriers are ignoring the downward pressures on rates and overpricing plans.

In short, insurers are arguing that many of the new health insurance policyholders enrolled via the state’s health insurance marketplace were sicker than expected, and that costs for caring for these new patients are higher. But CCHI says that this temporary spike was to be expected, and is now on the wane as insurance enrollments reflect the normal course of business instead of a flood of new participants. Many states are presently confronted with steep rate hike proposals like ours; not every state has a CCHI to fight them.

On the other side, of course, you have Republican opponents of the Affordable Care Act who are happy to lump in this latest story with their static narrative that “Obamacare has failed.” Since we’re talking about the possibility of premium increases, Republicans remind us that Obama once predicted that reform would cause premiums to drop. The problem is, even with these proposed increases, out-of-pocket premium costs have declined significantly for policyholders receiving tax credits under the ACA. And naturally, the millions of Americans now receiving affordable health care don’t consider it a failure.

So what to make of CCHI calling out insurers? Well, during the debate over Obamacare in 2009-10, many on the left argued that the only way to keep private insurers from abusing the system–even a reformed system–is a robust “public option” insurance alternative that commercial insurers would have to compete with. During the long and ultimately unsuccessful negotiations in hope of winning even token GOP support for the ACA, the “public option” was jettisoned, and experts warned that an important safety valve against abuses had been eliminated.

Today, it sure looks like they were right–and if we had a Congress willing to work in good faith instead of demanding the entire law be repealed out of political spite, we could fix this problem. It’s silly to think, after all, that such a complex undertaking as health care reform wouldn’t require some fixes after passage to keep it running smoothly. Especially when you consider the fraught negotiations over the law that resulted in problematic compromises experts knew would come back to haunt us.

Unfortunately for everybody, there is no good faith in Washington.

7 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. bullshit! says:

    Also, Zappatero would really appreciate a Bernie Sanders mention. 🙂

  2. BlueCat says:

    This is exactly why I opposed mandate without public option from the beginning. Despite the positives the  underlining reality is that Obamacare tinkers with the same old system that 's been making access to quality healthcare harder and harder to come by for ordinary people and still hands us to the bloated profiteers on a silver platter. There's a reason ACA came out of conservative think tanks. A reason why it was Romneycare before it was Obamacare. No one benefits more from it than the private insurance industry.

    Even public option wouldn't go far enough but would at least offer a real and more affordable alternative and downward pressure on what the private sector could demand. Prices aren't rising because these companies are having trouble making a profit. They're extraordinarily profitable while they add nothing of value, nothing but an unnecessary middleman extracting blood money.  

    This is why we need true universal as all of the rest of the modern industrialized world has. Health and life should not be treated as commodities. Public health should go hand in hand with public education, public infrastructure, safe food and water and air.  We'll go on paying twice as much and more than other western nations do for an ever lesser level of access to quality care for the majority until we join the 21st century civilized world.

    Obamacare may be an improvement but it's nowhere near adequate. Just as we long ago decided that all of our children should have access to education through a public education system we now need to take the same attitude toward access for all to quality healthcare.

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