UPDATE: As usual, the truth wasn't enough for Trump, so he doubled it & then lied on top of that.
When I decided to once again launch my Annual Rate Hike Estimate project this summer, I knew that this year, the rate increases for the individual market were likely to be significantly higher than in years past. Coming as they are in an election year, as a Democrat and ACA supporter, I obviously took no joy in reporting this truth.
However, a) The data is the data; it would be dishonest of me to try and ignore reality; and b) I knew that if I didn't report the rate increases as accurately as possible, Donald Trump and his Republican Party would flat-out lie about them.
Instead, as I should've expected, I reported the rate hikes as accurately as possible and, just as he did a year ago, Trump is still flat-out lying about them. Today I'm proud to report, therefore, that I'm playing at least a small role in debunking the lies of the Republican nominee for President of the United States, just 12 hours ahead of the first Presidential Debate this evening. From the Washington Post's Fact Checker:
Trump’s claim that Obama is trying to ‘delay’ Obamacare enrollment until after the election
...This is one of Trump’s go-to lines about premium increases under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. He warns of premium increases of 40, 50, 60 percent — and alleges that the Obama administration is trying to delay open enrollment, scheduled for Nov. 1, until after the election because the drastic rate hikes will be “election-defying.” Are his claims accurate?
The short answer is: No.
...Indeed, premiums are expected to increase overall in 2017 — but Trump is cherry-picking from the highest proposed increases in the insurance marketplace. He has made a version of this claim since June 2015, and our friends at FactCheck.org have been debunking it repeatedly since. [FactCheck.org didn't quote my data last summer but PolitiFact did last October].
State-by-state weighted average increases range from just 1.3 percent in Rhode Island to as high as 71 percent in Oklahoma, according to calculations by Charles Gaba, who keeps careful track of enrollment figures at ACASignups.net. As of Sept. 22, the average increase across individual markets in 21 approved states is 25.5 percent.
The WaPo article goes on to add additional context: The most commonly-selected plans on the exchanges are only expected to go up around 9%; 85% of exchange enrollees receive tax credits which heavily mitigate rate hikes for the enrollees; and in some cases, their 2017 rates might actually be lower next year as a result of the way the tax credit formula works.
The irony here is that if Trump had simply stuck to the truth for once in his life, he would have had a fairly reasonable attack--A 25% overall average increase isn't pretty, after all, and the full increase does apply to roughly half of individual market enrollees. But, Trump being Trump, he just had to glom onto the biggest, the worst, the ugliest number he could possibly find and use that instead, with zero context or nuance.
And then, of course, he had to top off his cake with some completely made-up bullshit frosting:
We asked the Trump campaign adviser to explain the nominee’s claim that the administration is trying to delay the Nov. 1 open enrollment until after the election. The response was that “some rates are still pending approval.”
But state insurance departments are approving those rates now, and rates will be public by the time open enrollment begins Nov. 1. This date is set, per federal regulations published in March. The Obama administration has not indicated that it would move the date. And if the administration wanted to change the date, some type of public notice and comment period would have begun months ago.
There is zero evidence that the 2017 Open Enrollment Period will begin on any other date than November 1st, or that anyone in the Obama administration (which set that date) is attempting to change it. Zilch. None. And even if they wanted to change it, the process would've had to have started months ago, with notices sent out to thousands of carriers, exchange administrators, assistors/navigators, media outlets and government agency employees. Trump is flat-out lying about this, making himself look (as always) like an even bigger idiot than he already did.
Anyway, with the historic debate between him and Hillary Clinton (who knows a thing or two about healthcare reform, after all) coming up this evening, the timing of this fact check couldn't be more appropriate...not that it'll make a damned bit of difference to his supporters, of course.
UPDATE: Oh good heavens.
I had someone at a different website ask whether or not the "25% average hikes" apply to job-based coverage. NO! Absolutely not! For instance, large group coverage (which covers over 40% of the country) premiums only went up about 3% this year. For 2017, this Fortune article from August says:
Employers’ costs of providing health benefits are expected to go up by about 6% next year while employees should expect about a 5% increase in their monthly premiums, according to a new survey by the National Business Group on Health (NBGH). The nonprofit organization is made up of 425 large employers and the survey contains data from 133 of these big businesses, which employ and sponsor health benefits to more than 15 million Americans.
OK, so that's around 5-6% for the large group market/
How about the small group market (around 13.5 million people, according to Mark Farrah Associates) is also looking at much lower rate hikes next year:
- California: 5.9% approved
- Colorado: 2.1% approved
- Connecticut: 12.0% approved
- District of Columbia: Requests range from (-5.6%) to +14.6% (unweighted avg: around 4.1%)
- Idaho: 4.0% approved
- Maryland: 3.3% approved
- Massachusetts: 6.7% requested (MA combines indy & sm. group risk pools)
- Michigan: 2.6% requested
- Oregon: (-0.5%) approved
- Vermont: 7.0% approved (VT combines indy & sm. group risk pools)
...for an overall weighted average (by total population of these states, or around 24% of the country) of around 5.0%. Obviously the remaining 41 states could shift the sm. group average up or down, but it's pretty clear that this is much more stable than the individual market. So around 5% seems to be what we can expect in the total employer-provided market, which covers nearly half the country. Not fantastic, but much lower than 25%.
AGAIN: The 25% average rate hikes I've estimated only apply to the roughly 18 million people enrolled in ACA-compliant individual policies...and even then, roughly half of those folks are mostly protected from the hikes thanks to the federal tax credits. So we're really talking about roughly 9 million people who have to pay the full 25% average increases.
Don't get me wrong...that still sucks for those 9 million people; I'm not trying to minimize their concerns. At the same time, 9 million people = around 2.8% of the total population.