Today’s Policy Agenda: Some Floridians Are Going to See Huge Premium Increases

Some Floridians will see huge premium increases in 2015.

Kaiser’s Phil Galewitz reports that Florida Blue, the state’s largest heath insurer announced 17.6 percent average premium increase for exchange insurance plans:

Several factors related to the health law are driving up rates for next year, Geraghty said, including a paucity of younger and healthy enrollees and a greater-than-expected surge of people seeking expensive health services. The law prohibits insurers from rejecting people with health problems or charging them higher premiums. That meant that many unhealthy people who had not been able to get coverage before were able to obtain policies in 2014.

This 17.6 percent increase is the largest rate hike Floridians have experienced in recent years, following substantial increases in previous years: 16.5 percent in 2014, 16 percent in 2013 and 11.5 percent in 2012. Even premiums for narrow-network plans, which have kept costs reasonable for some Americans, will increase by 13 percent next year.

Residents in other states, like Virginia and Washington, can also expect large premium increases in 2015. But this isn’t happening everywhere: California recently announced that premiums would increase by an average of only 4.2 percent next year.

Of course, it isn’t necessary for every state to see dramatic premium hikes for Obamacare to be a failure on its own terms. Back in 2013, Obama promised Americans lower premiums — but as the regulations pile on and make it harder for insurers to cut costs, it seems unlikely that premiums will go anywhere but up.

The July jobs report was decent, but we’re not seeing wage growth.

On Thursday, Lucia Mutikani of Reuters looked at whether wages may start rising — she says the BEA’s announcement of a 0.07 percent increase in Employment Cost Index (ECI) in the second quarter could indicate that wages will finally start rising soon. 

But, despite the growth in ECI, average hourly earnings rose only 1 cent from June, according to the July jobs report. Overall, wages have increased only 2 percent in nominal terms since last June. The numbers were better in terms of jobs added, but there really isn’t much sign of wage growth for now.

Congress passed a last-minute VA bill: what’s in it?

Thursday evening, the Senate passed a $17 billion VA reform bill, which the president is expected to sign. The Wall Street Journal’s Ben Kesling reports on the bill: The $17 billion will go to increasing veterans’ access to care: Some veterans will be permitted to use non-VA providers at a cost of $10 billion, while $5 billion was allocated to hire new doctors and nurses and $2 billion will be spent on expanding programs and open new offices.

Just three senators voted against the bill, saying their dissent was in large part due to costs. The CBO projects that the bill would add $10 billion to the deficit over the next ten years. But that probably significantly understates the costs of the new policies because the expansion is only funded for a few years, after which it’s almost definitely going to continue, and continue costing money.

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