Florida Democrats vowing to make health care a priority in the November elections got a jolt of surprising news this week that could reshape the ongoing back-and-forth over former President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul.
The state Office of Insurance Regulation late Tuesday released data that showed health-insurance premiums won’t balloon as much as some had feared amid moves by the Trump administration to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.
The office reported on average that rates will increase 5.2 percent for individuals who receive coverage through the federal health-insurance exchange, beginning in January. That means the premium for a 28-year-old adult living in Monroe County earning $27,000 annually should be an average of $115 month for a “silver” plan. That’s the lowest average rate in the state, according to an OIR chart.
Conversely, the highest costs for the plan will be in Okeechobee County, where that 28-year-old person would pay, on average, $333 a month for the same policy.
The rate increases are some of the lowest ever requested by Florida insurance companies since the federal health law passed in 2010.
The law, often referred to as Obamacare, requires insurance companies to issue policies to people regardless of any pre-existing conditions. It also provides cost-sharing reductions for people who qualify.
But the federal law also required insurance companies to cover certain health benefits and prevented companies from limiting coverage. Those changes apply to all insurance policies, including those sold to employers in the private market through group plans.
For individual policies, carriers submitted rate requests to the Office of Insurance Regulation ranging from a high of a 10.5 percent increase submitted by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida to a low of 5.6 percent, submitted by Florida Health Care Plans. On average, regulators instead approved a 5.2 percent increase for individual policies.
The costs of group health insurance increased by an average of 6 percent for the 2019 year, according to the OIR data. Those policies are not bought on the federal exchange and are not subsidized.
The program Florida Covering Kids and Families at the University of South Florida works with state agencies and others to advocate and conduct outreach to help people have access to affordable health coverage.
Jody Ray, the director of the organization, didn’t know “what to expect” when it came to insurance rates for the 2019 year.
“This is really good news for Florida,” she said.
An insurance premium is the amount of money that an individual or business must pay for a policy. Premiums reflect the expected health care costs of the risk pool as well as the costs of the care.
Florida Association of Health Plans President and CEO Audrey Brown said in a statement that the recent rate approval is in line with medical inflation and “indicates an overall market stabilization.”
Congress this year eliminated a mandate included in the federal health law that people must buy insurance policies or face tax penalties. The move raised concerns that, without the mandate, only those who are unhealthy would continue to purchase health insurance through the federal exchange.
Moreover, the Trump administration has made clear that it will not defend the Affordable Care Act against the latest legal challenge brought by 20 Republican-led states, including Florida.
Gov. Rick Scott and other Republican leaders have consistently opposed the sweeping law, which has helped lower the percentage of uninsured citizens in the state and nation. Florida’s uninsured rate in 2013, the year before Obamacare plans became available, was 20 percent and one of the highest in the nation. In 2016, the rate was 12.5 percent.
Florida also has consistently led the nation in the number of people who enroll in the federal exchange under the law. Last year, more than 1.7 million Floridians entered the marketplace to buy a plan. The vast majority, more than 90 percent, received federal financial help to reduce their monthly premiums.
State regulators, who work for an agency controlled by Scott and three other Republicans, released the health-insurance data the same day as Florida’s primary elections.
Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum captured the Democratic nomination for governor edging out four opponents, and Republican Congressman Ron DeSantis won the GOP nomination.
Gillum supports Obamacare, while DeSantis has voted to repeal the law. In a conference call on Wednesday, some of the state’s top Democrats made clear that they would ensure health-care access is a priority issue.
“Make no mistake, health care is on the ballot this November,” said Congressman Ted Deutch, whose district includes parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties.
–Christine Sexton, News Service of Florida
That’s great news, especially with the mandatory requirement to buy gone! Thank you Donald!
And it’s still the Unaffordable Healthcare Act, premiums are still on the rise no matter how you look at it
When, prior to the ACA did you ever see Health Insurance premiums decrease? The ACA actually helped slow down the rate of the increases. Here’s a few copy&paste quotes from an independant insurance reporting agency :
“Three years before the ACA took effect, health insurance premiums were increasing by 10 percent to 12 percent each year, and the rate of the uninsured was growing.”
“It turns out that the average premiums in the individual market actually dropped when the ACA was implemented.”
“Researchers give credit for the downward pressure on prices to a host of factors:
Competition created by an insurance market that expanded to include millions more customers,
Greater authority built into the law for lawmakers to review insurer’s premium rate increases,
And a cap on the percentage of revenue insurers can use for overhead and administration.”
Yes, insurance premiums have gone up. But they have every year since the 1980s that I can remember – when HMOs and others became commercial, instead of non-profit.
And NO, the actual problem has never been addressed … that we need a Healthcare COSTS reform of some type, not just more Healthcare INSURANCE reforms.
The Truth says
Over 7 years of complaining from Republican’s on the evil Obamacare yet no one thought to think of a viable alternative that they could all agree on. Politics in general in the country are laughable but nothing is more of a joke than the Republican party and how they can’t seem to agree on anything other than complaining.
If Obamacare was so bad, why did you not have an alternative lined up and ready to go so that when you did take majority and you had a Republican in office you were prepared to offer a better alternative. Here we are 8 years later and the only thing they’ve done is remove the requirement to buy insurance. What happened to Trump’s great plan to make healthcare great again? Oh that’s right, he got distracted because someone made fun of him and he forgot all about it.
Cause it is NOT the governments job to take care of you, and it was NEVER intended to be. Perhaps Europe of Canada is what you seek.
Is that like almost pregnant?
God bless Obama! He will go down in history as one of our nation’s greatest presidents! We all owe a great deal to the hard work and service he put in as president!