Obamacare looking healthy for 2019, despite attacks

More insurers. Only a few huge price hikes. Even some premium decreases.This is what Obamacare looks ...

Posted: Sep 8, 2018 5:49 AM
Updated: Sep 8, 2018 5:49 AM

More insurers. Only a few huge price hikes. Even some premium decreases.

This is what Obamacare looks like for 2019.

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Despite President Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans' attempts to wound the landmark health reform law, Obamacare is surviving -- and even growing stronger.

The landscape is markedly different than at this time a year ago, when insurers were fleeing the marketplace or hiking rates to combat all the GOP-fueled uncertainty surrounding the Affordable Care Act.

Yet, questions still abound for 2019.

Next year will be the first time that Americans will not have to pay the penalty for being uninsured since the Obamacare insurance exchanges opened in 2014. Congress eliminated the individual mandate penalty as part of last year's tax overhaul.

Also, the Trump administration is making it easier for people to buy alternative policies that will likely be less expensive, but won't provide the same benefits, particularly for those with pre-existing conditions.

All these changes are expected to siphon younger and healthier enrollees out of the exchanges, experts say. That could prompt insurers to raise rates for the older and sicker folks who remain in Obamacare policies.

Plus, Obamacare is facing new threats from the nation's judicial system. The US Senate is wrapping up Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who Obamacare supporters fear would vote to overturn the health reform law. And a US District Court judge in Texas this week heard arguments in a case that seeks to bring down the Affordable Care Act by having major portions or the entire law declared unconstitutional.

So far, however, many insurers are keeping price increases in check. Several have even said they would have raised rates even less -- or decreased them -- if Congress hadn't eliminated the individual mandate penalty.

In Kansas, insurers requested rate increases of slightly less than 6%, on average, which is significantly lower than in past years, said Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer.

"We again have a competitive market in Kansas for 2019 with every county having plan choices available from multiple insurance carriers," he said.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is cutting its rates by 4.1%, on average. This marks the insurer's first premium reduction since it entered the state's individual market more than 25 years ago. It attributed the decrease to new deals with health care providers to keep costs in check.

Still "to keep driving premiums down, we need more market stability and more certainty from Washington," said Patrick Conway, CEO of Blue Cross North Carolina.

In Tennessee, where rates had risen more than 176% since the exchanges opened in 2014, two insurers are planning price breaks for next year. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, the state's largest carrier, filed for a 15% cut in premiums, while Cigna is requesting a nearly 13% decrease. A third insurer, Oscar Health, asked for a 7.3% increase.

Overall, insurers have requested or received premium increases of 3.6%, on average, across 47 states and Washington, D.C., for next year, according to an analysis by the Associated Press and Avalere Health, released Friday. That compares to a 30% increase for 2018.

"This year, double-digit increases are by far the exception," said Katherine Hempstead, senior policy adviser at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. "Last year, they were the rule."

Insurers are also returning to the exchanges after several years of exits. Tennessee, which had 11 insurers in 2016 but only three this year, will have five next year.

Anthem, a major player in the individual market that pulled out of several states last year, is expanding its presence in Kentucky and Virginia and returning to Maine for 2019. Oscar is entering Florida, Arizona and Michigan, while broadening its reach in Ohio, Tennessee and Texas.

A little more than one-third of counties examined by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will have more insurers than last year, said Hempstead, who looked at half of the nation's states. There will be very few reductions in coverage.

"Those carriers that stayed in the market have figured out how to make money," Hempstead said. "Looking at that has attracted some interest from others."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 996341

Reported Deaths: 16245
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1343262101
Lake658231151
Allen57160791
Hamilton45963460
St. Joseph43954607
Elkhart35546503
Vanderburgh31975473
Tippecanoe27694256
Johnson24821440
Hendricks23647353
Porter22735362
Madison18538404
Clark18383248
Vigo17274300
Monroe15117197
LaPorte14987249
Delaware14931256
Howard14574286
Kosciusko12166147
Hancock11597175
Bartholomew11447179
Warrick11225188
Floyd10983214
Wayne10840248
Grant9898217
Morgan9361176
Boone8819115
Dubois8210129
Dearborn815492
Henry8107150
Noble7944106
Marshall7786134
Cass7462119
Lawrence7379168
Shelby7115114
Jackson691788
Gibson6480113
Harrison641591
Huntington630299
Knox6269105
DeKalb623796
Montgomery6184109
Miami586595
Putnam573477
Clinton567171
Whitley558055
Steuben550473
Wabash5250101
Jasper520475
Jefferson504695
Ripley492485
Adams472773
Daviess4596112
Scott433968
Greene421196
Wells419787
Clay418460
White414261
Decatur4118101
Fayette402186
Jennings383260
Posey374243
LaGrange352078
Washington352049
Randolph339999
Spencer336442
Fountain331858
Sullivan326652
Starke310868
Owen310169
Fulton304566
Orange290562
Jay278445
Perry264452
Franklin262742
Carroll258232
Rush257232
Vermillion254254
Parke229726
Pike227343
Tipton225659
Blackford187840
Pulaski181155
Crawford158122
Newton155648
Benton150117
Brown144047
Martin137319
Switzerland133911
Warren120116
Union106615
Ohio84012
Unassigned0532

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1490451

Reported Deaths: 23327
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1620041662
Cuyahoga1439412412
Hamilton1040301409
Montgomery727961240
Summit606541094
Lucas55296904
Butler50803707
Stark456401053
Lorain34875568
Warren32293369
Mahoning30057672
Clermont27811321
Lake26457434
Delaware23872162
Licking23361283
Trumbull22357552
Fairfield22081241
Greene21967311
Medina21624305
Clark19513349
Richland18225280
Portage17579247
Wood17122220
Allen15627269
Miami15259296
Muskingum14417174
Columbiana13587263
Wayne13494263
Tuscarawas12372298
Marion11742175
Scioto11313154
Pickaway11246141
Erie10586180
Ross10397196
Lawrence9630137
Hancock9476149
Ashtabula9370197
Belmont9059197
Geauga8766157
Jefferson8439191
Huron8172139
Union806256
Washington7995137
Sandusky7654145
Athens765372
Knox7539138
Darke7525151
Seneca7166144
Ashland6761125
Auglaize663396
Shelby6374111
Brown626282
Crawford6147130
Mercer605793
Defiance6043102
Fulton588596
Highland585899
Madison584976
Clinton573890
Logan566292
Guernsey564867
Preble5623121
Putnam5227108
Williams515384
Perry510661
Champaign500871
Jackson493470
Ottawa476686
Coshocton466382
Morrow448256
Pike428462
Fayette419960
Adams409287
Gallia408165
Hardin407176
Van Wert361578
Henry356671
Holmes3539122
Hocking349078
Wyandot315761
Carroll294559
Paulding274345
Meigs256849
Monroe210553
Noble195146
Morgan188132
Harrison177042
Vinton161124
Unassigned05
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