Another Insurer Warns of Obamacare Death Spiral

by Rich Lowry

Any time Republicans say Obamacare is in a death spiral, Democrats accuse them of lying, but we heard the AETNA CEO use this language a couple of months ago and here’s another insurer saying basically the same thing:

The head of the largest insurer in the Mid-Atlantic region warned Thursday that the Affordable Care Act marketplaces were in the early stages of a death spiral, a statement that came as the company announced its request for massive, double-digit premium increases for next year.

Projecting that by year’s end the company will have lost a total of $600 million since it started selling plans in the marketplaces four years ago, CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield is requesting a greater than 50 percent rate increase in Maryland, a 35 percent increase in northern Virginia and a 29 percent increase in D.C.

“What we’re seeing is greater sickness levels. The pool of beneficiaries is becoming sicker, in part because healthier people are not coming in at the same level we hoped,” said Chet Burrell, chief executive of CareFirst, which insures about 215,000 people through the marketplaces set up by the Affordable Care Act in all three states.

Burrell said he was worried that the market was in the early stages of a death spiral, in which sick people who need insurance stay in the pool but healthier people drop out, causing insurers to raise rates — driving even more healthy people out of the market.

“We were hoping for more stability. The factors that I have described to you today lead to instability and to a spiral, and we think we are in the beginning of that,” Burrell said.

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