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Average price of Obama health law plans to drop in 2019

Published: Thursday, October 11, 2018 @ 6:17 AM

In a surprise announcement, the Trump Administration reported Thursday that the average price for benchmark health insurance plans under the Obama health law system would drop in 2019 by 1.5 percent, as statistics issued by the feds indicated the controversial health insurance exchanges were stabilizing in price and coverage.

"President Trump’s Administration took action to address the skyrocketing price of health insurance, and now we are starting to see the results," said Seema Verma, the head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

But Verma made clear that President Donald Trump did not want to keep the current Obamacare health system in place.

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"Even with this reduction, average rates are still too high. If we are going to truly offer affordable, high quality healthcare, ultimately the law needs to change," Verma added.

"One big reason insurers are lowering premiums," said Cynthia Cox of the Kaiser Family Foundation, is that "Individual market insurers are currently so profitable it would be hard for many companies to justify a rate increase."

"This profitability is also probably attracting new entrants and returning companies," Cox added.

While the overall average is a decrease of 1.5 percent in premiums for 2019, the state-by-state data varies wildly, with everything from a 26 percent drop in Tennessee to a 20 percent increase in North Dakota.

Larger states like Florida (1.8 percent), Georgia (0.4 percent), North Carolina (-1.4 percent) and Texas (1.4 percent) are all around or above the average - some like Ohio (3 percent) and Arizona (4 percent) are above.

The full state-by-state data is available at this site from CMS.

Supporters of the Obama health law said it was more evidence that the system would work - if insurers and the Trump Administration would fully support it.

The announcement of the average premium increase for 2019 came a day after Senate Republicans blocked an effort by Democrats to overturn a new Trump Administration rule which allows short-term insurance plans to be sold, which don't follow all the coverage requirements of the Obama health law.

Backers of the plan argue the lower-cost-but-less-coverage insurance policies are better for consumers than the higher-priced alternative under the health exchanges.

In Senate debate, Democrats derided the plans as 'junk' insurance, arguing they often don't cover emergency services or pre-existing medical conditions.

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