Based on rate increases proposed to North Carolina’s Department of Insurance, state residents who have signed up for Obamacare could face a 19 percent to 25 percent jump in the cost of their health coverage for 2017, Republican Sen. Richard Burr says.
Further, because major health insurers have suffered losses and are exiting the program, in 90 percent of North Carolina counties, residents enrolled in President Barack Obama’s signature health care program will only have one plan from which to choose in their so-called marketplace, Burr wrote in an op ed published in the online North State Journal.
“Obamacare is imploding,” he wrote. “With each passing day we see more evidence that the program that promised Americans affordable health care is on the verge of total collapse.
“… Americans were promised that Obamacare would lower their premiums and that they could keep their current plan if they liked it, but that’s not what Americans got. Prices are escalating, and plan choices are evaporating.”
But the administration issued its own analysis, concluding that 82 percent of North Carolinians could still purchase a plan for less than $75 per month. Officials at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also emphasize that since the Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare became law, health care prices have risen at the lowest rate in 50 years.
“Headline rate increases do not reflect what consumers actually pay,” said Kathryn Martin, acting assistant secretary for planning and evaluation. “Our study shows that, even in a scenario where all plans saw double digit rate increases, the vast majority of consumers would continue to have affordable options.”
Democrats argue that Burr, who is campaigning for a third term in the Senate, and other Republicans in Congress are part of the problem. House and Senate Republicans have refused administration calls for modifications that might fix Obamacare, the centerpiece of several health policy changes that the administration says have slashed the number of uninsured Americans by 20 million people, to 11.4 percent of the population. Before the law took effect, 47 million Americans were uninsured.
The central problem has been the low number of young, healthy people who have elected not to sign up for Obamacare, despite stiffening tax penalties for failing to do so. With mostly sicker people among the 12.7 million enrolled, the average cost of premiums has been pushed higher.
In North Carolina, 725,498 people had been declared eligible for Obamacare as of Feb. 1, 2016, with 592,369 qualifying for some form of financial aid, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Burr wants to repeal the Obama program and replace it with a package he co-authored last year called The Patient CARE Act, which he said would hold down health care costs and expand access to quality coverage. That plan is built around a means-tested tax credit that people could use to buy health insurance or to deposit into a health savings account.
The legislation, co-authored by Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, also would do away with the expansion of Medicaid that accompanied Obamacare. The Burr-Hatch plan would replace the program for the poor with tax credits and a per capita cap on coverage.
“Americans are understandably fed up with the finger pointing,” Burr wrote. “It’s time for solutions, and these solutions must allow greater choice at a lower cost for families, protect individuals with pre-existing (medical) conditions, protect Medicare for current seniors and future generations and promote greater medical innovation to find cures and save lives.”