Friday, October 28, 2016

Some Fraction of More Than 6.5 Million Wealthy Americans Threatened with Massive Health Care Premium Increases

Updated Friday afternoon to fix some bad numbers
Could see their premiums skyrocket. Liberal writers are poor enough to get government subsidies. Then again subsidies from the Koch brothers are pretty generous.
That's how the headlines should have been reading in the serious media (New York Times, Guardian, NPR, Trevor Noah and Stephen Colbert) but it's not how they've gone at all. Nearly all of these sources imply in their ledes that premiums are going up for some kind of everybody, either everybody who has health insurance or for the more sophisticated everybody in the much smaller group who have "Obamacare" proper, Marketplace policies; and if they make an attempt to correct the impression in the body paragraphs—yes, it's not quite that bad—continue to suggest that it's terrible and nobody can really know how bad it is because that's a total mystery and anyway it's "out there" and "people are saying" etc., like Renée Montagne on NPR Wednesday morning, apparently utterly baffled and incapable of understanding what her expert is trying to tell her:
KODJAK: The overall rates for insurance bought through the Obamacare exchanges are going to go up an average of 22 percent across the country. Some states, the increases will be bigger, some will be smaller. But for consumers who qualify for subsidies, which are most of them, they won't really see an increase because those subsidies increase along with the rates.
MONTAGNE: OK, so not exactly 22 percent there, maybe, for most people. But Donald Trump did come out at a rally in Florida yesterday with a reaction to this news. Let's take a listen.
No, Renée, not at all 22%, and certainly rather than maybe, for 85% of those who have Marketplace policies. That was about 10.4 million customers in 2016; 8.8 million received tax subsidies because their income was less than 400% of the poverty level—that is, say for a family of four, because their income was under $97,200—and the remaining 1.6 million, with higher incomes, didn't.

Plus some undetermined percentage of the 2.5 million who buy private policies on their own instead of through the Marketplace because they're too stupid or too afraid of OMG SOSHULISM and don't get subsidies because of that, and I just can't be bothered to care about these imbeciles even enough to count them, sorry. If their premiums go up it is entirely their fault.

[Update: I read that number wrong; 2.5 million is the total of those likely to qualify for subsidies. Per Charles Gaba's chart, reposted on Wednesday, there are actually 7.2 million people on off-Exchange private policies, so about 4.7 million of those would not qualify for subsidies if they purchased through the exchanges, along with 1.9 million on unsubsidized Exchange policies, a much less trivial number than I was getting.]

Out of some 290 million who have some form of private or public insurance, more than 280 million of whom will be entirely unaffected by this development.

So it's basically those 6.6 million wealthier individuals whose premiums are about to go up drastically in some states (mostly Republican states that have refused to set up state exchanges and expand Medicaid, as it happens) and not so much in others. And it's probable that many or most of those in the unsubsidized income range are self-employed and could be unaware that they can take the whole thing as a tax deduction anyway. Not to mention that they could be shopping around for an alternative plan with lower premiums (capped at 9.5% of income for the base Silver plan), which do exist in many or most of these counties even though competition is not as robust as it should be because REPUBLICANS IN CONGRESS DELIBERATELY HANDICAPPED CO-OPS and HUGE INSURANCE COMPANIES ARE PUNISHING THE GOVERNMENT FOR NOT ALLOWING THEM TO MERGE INTO HUGER COMPANIES.

It's true that as taxpayers we're on the hook for those premium increases in those crappy Red states, since that's how the subsidies are paid for, but the whole Affordable Care Act is still coming in so far under cost projections that we can really afford it. Oh, and far from being an unexpected horrifying development, the premium hikes just put the prices approximately where the original projections expected them to be (the insurance companies set premiums too low last year), as this great piece by Timothy Jost points out:
According to the report, Congressional Budget Office projections from 2009 suggested average 2017 premiums of $5,538; HHS is projecting average premiums of $5,586. Indeed, premiums in many states are still below the cost of employer coverage.
And we can also afford to fix it, as the Clinton campaign proposes to do, doing something about those very high deductible plans and encouraging competition through co-ops and/or that public option. The ACA is a tremendous success so far—that fraction of a million and a half people is a tiny fraction of the 20-plus million who would have no health insurance at all if not for the Act—but it's not finished.

Vote Democrat on November 8 for that if for nothing else (no, I realize there are lots of good reasons).

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