“Stability” Bill Will Not Reduce Premiums in 2019 Compared to 2018
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Backers of Obamacare “stability” legislation claim it will lower premiums. However, most studies suggest that even after Congress spends tens of billions of dollars, premiums will still rise in 2019 compared to 2018. If the “stability” bill won’t deliver on its promise of lower rates, why enact such controversial legislation…?
CLAIM: “Oliver Wyman projected premium decreases…40% lower premiums…”
1. Half of supposed premium decrease depends on states enacting their own reinsurance programs.
2. Oliver Wyman’s own report admits most states will not get reinsurance programs enacted in time for 2019 open enrollment—less than eight months away.
3. 10% of supposed premium decrease comes from appropriation of cost-sharing reductions (CSRs).
4. In all but six states in 2018, individuals can purchase plans with premiums unaffected by cancellation of CSR payments. Therefore, most unsubsidized enrollees will not see any premium reduction in 2019 if Congress appropriates CSR funds—because they never saw a premium increase to begin with.
5. Does not consider impact of Association Health Plans (AHPs) or short-term plans. If either AHPs or short-term plans achieve sizable enrollment, they could siphon off healthy individuals from the Exchanges—raising premiums for those who remain.
REALITY: Eliminating the effects of waivers most states won’t receive by year-end, and CSR payments that didn’t affect most unsubsidized enrollees to begin with, Oliver Wyman believes premiums in 2019 will decline only by about 10%. If health costs rise substantially, or short-term plans become popular, those modest premium decreases will disappear—and if both occur, individuals will likely face double-digit premium increases in 2019, even after the “stability” measure.
CLAIM: “CBO projected premium reductions…2019: Average 10% premium reduction…”
1. Both CBO and the Trump Administration believe the elimination of the individual mandate penalty will raise premiums by roughly 10%—completely offsetting the effects of the “stability” bill next year.
2. CBO has yet to analyze whether and how short-term plans and AHPs will raise Exchange premiums.
3. While the Trump Administration thinks short-term plans will raise Exchange premiums only slightly—because a small number of people (100,000-200,000) will enroll in them—higher take-up of short-term plans could raise Exchange premiums substantially. The Urban Institute believes that 4.3 million individuals will enroll in short-term plans—and that this high enrollment in short-term plans (where they are offered) will raise Exchange premiums by 18.3 percent.
REALITY: At best CBO believes that the “stability” bill will mitigate the effects of eliminating the mandate penalty next year. But that makes premium increases for 2019 inevitable, and double-digit premium increases quite possible—even after the “stability” bill takes effect.