When Will HHS Notify Americans About Premium Increases?
Over the past several months, debates about our nation’s health-care system have reentered the public arena, as the many flaws of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — including failing co-ops and narrowing coverage — have come to light. Now, as Election Day edges closer, consumers find themselves facing another battle: proposals for more increases on health-care premiums in 2017.
Not only are these premium increases unaffordable, there’s no confirmed release date for the final numbers for all states. In 2015, some states revealed insurance premium increases for 2016 throughout the summer and early fall, but the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) failed to release the final rates until October 25 — a mere few days before open enrollment began. If this pattern repeats in 2017, businesses and taxpayers will be left with no time to research or prepare for choosing the best coverage option.
The lack of transparency surrounding the premium increases creates a slew of challenges for Americans who simply want accessible and affordable health-care coverage.
As of June 2016, only 33 states have released premium increase requests. A vast majority of those numbers are in the double digits, with states such as Arizona and New Hampshire facing potential increases of up to 60 percent. Both Insurers and the Obama administration are attempting to calm nerves by suggesting that these increases are only requests and that they may not be realized. They should skip the spin and instead offer open, transparent, and consistent information — and sooner rather than later.
Businesses and taxpayers deserve to know how much their insurance premiums will increase, and they need certainty rather than speculation. HHS should provide answers with ample time before the election — not the week prior. Consumers, in particular, need this information so they can see where their taxes are going and make educated decisions about their health-care plans before putting a pen to the ballot on November 8.
As providers such as UnitedHealth plan to exit a majority of the insurance exchanges, the ACA’s implementation has gone from bad to worse. Consumers are now presented with a blatant, though disheartening fact: the ACA has failed to do the one thing it promised, namely hold insurers accountable. By not releasing the final 2017 premium increases as soon as they’re available, insurers and the administration are taking a gamble not only on the affordability and quality of care, but also on competition and consumer choice.
If our nation’s leaders want to keep Americans insured — and, more importantly, healthy — two things are desperately needed: transparency and time for consumers to decide which coverage is best for them. If last year’s trends continue for the 2017 premium rates, insurer’s and the government will, once again, leave consumers and businesses frustrated and out of the loop and many taxpayers without affordable, quality coverage.
Stephen DeMaura is the President of Americans for Job Security.