Health

GOP Blames Obamacare For Rising Insurance Premiums

| by Michael Allen

Many Republicans, including GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, are blaming the rising costs of health insurance premiums on the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

The wave of criticism began when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said in a report on Oct. 24 that health insurance companies are likely going to raise premiums by an average of 22 percent in 2017, notes ABC News.

"It's blowing up all over the country," Trump said on Oct. 25 at his golf resort in Doral, Florida. Trump promised to repeal Obamacare and replace it with an unspecified new plan, reports CNN.

"Isn't it amazing that you had Barack Obama a week ago literally celebrating the launch of Obamacare, and then we find out from his own HHS in the last 24 hours that premiums are going to go up 25% across the board," Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence stated during a radio program on Oct. 25.

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Since its inception, Obamacare has never set the price of insurance premiums. Those prices are set by the health insurance companies and approved by state regulators.

Obamacare is a federal program that regulates the practices, not prices, of health insurance companies. The act requires health insurance policies to provide a minimum of required coverage, does not allow companies to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions, and caps the out-of-pocket cost that Americans spend on health care.

HealthInsurance.org noted in March 2016 that health insurance stock has seen staggering increases since March 2009, when President Obama was first meeting with various groups to create Obamacare.

Over those seven years, WellCare's stock price increased by 1,410 percent, Humana’s shares went up by 1,010 percent, Cigna's stock jumped by 1,113 percent, Anthem went up 469 percent, Aetna gained 628 percent while UnitedHealth Group saw an 814 percent increase.

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Despite those enormous profits, ABC News reports that "UnitedHealthcare and Aetna have signaled their intention to leave many markets."

HealthInsurance.org added the following:

Despite record-breaking profits year after year, health insurance company executives would like us to believe that Obama has been terrible for health insurers. UnitedHealth’s CEO Stephen Hemsley, who made more than $66 million in 2014, said in November that the company might stop selling policies on the Obamacare exchanges in 2017 because financial results from that segment of its operations have so far been lower than executives had hoped. He said a few weeks ago that the company lost $720 million in 2015 on its individual health insurance business.

If you’re feeling sad for Hemsley, know this: UnitedHealth Group reported a profit of $11 billion (on revenues of more than $157 billion) in 2015, up from $10.3 billion (on revenues of $131 billion) in 2014. When you consider those impressive results, it’s obvious the company’s Obamacare business is a tiny portion of its overall operations, but rather than trying to turn its Obamacare business around for the benefit of the country and its Obamacare enrollees, it is considering bailing out of the exchanges for the benefit of its shareholders.

Americans could have escaped the world of private health insurance premiums in 2009 when the original Obamacare bill included a "public option" that would have allowed Americans to pick a government plan similar to what Congress gets.

All Republican lawmakers steadfastly opposed Obamacare, and conservative "Blue Dog Democrats" wouldn't support it unless the "public option" was dropped. Obamacare needed the Blue Dogs' votes to get past the GOP opposition, so the "public option" was cut.

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has signaled that she supports bringing back the public option.

Sources: ABC News, CNN, HealthInsurance.org / Photo credit: Enrique Diaz/DVIDS

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