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Health Care

Obamacare Premiums Continue Steep Climb

A sign on an insurance store advertises Obamacare in San Ysidro, San Diego, California, October 26, 2017. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

Already-astronomical Obamacare premiums will continue to skyrocket in 2019, and state regulators are blaming the market uncertainty created by the Trump administration’s repeal of the individual mandate.

Washington state and New York released projections Monday that revealed insurers in their individual markets are seeking to raise premiums dramatically. While the range of premium spikes across individual insurers is quite broad, the average proposed increase in rates for each state (19 percent in Washington, 24 percent in New York) reflects a bleak environment for consumers.

Premium increases among individual insurers in both states range widely, from less than 1 percent to more than 30 percent. The disparity reflects the divergent approaches employed by insurers with respect to the Trump administration’s repeal of the individual mandate: Some companies factored in the repeal when setting prices for 2018 while others did not.

Critics of the administration’s decision to repeal the individual mandate — New York and Washington regulators among them — claim the move bifurcated the market into one population of healthy, young people and another of sickly, older people, who must pay higher premiums since insurers can no longer rely on the young to pay in without consuming resources.

“There’s still a great deal of uncertainty in individual markets across the country, fueled by the Trump administration’s efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act,” Washington insurance commissioner Mike Kreidler said in a statement. “Instead of getting behind solutions that shore up these markets, the administration seems solely focused on undermining our health insurance system and the individuals and families who need to buy their coverage in the individual market.”

Supporters of the individual-mandate repeal cite the drastic increase in premiums that hit prior to repeal in making the case that the system was inefficient long before the Trump administration introduced greater uncertainty. According to insurers, the premiums were reflective of the high cost associated with listing products on the Obamacare exchanges, which drove some companies to pull out of certain states, leaving consumers in those states with one option, or, in some cases, no options.

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