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Report: Health care premiums would increase 52 percent

New Hampshire Union Leader

September 27. 2017 8:22PM

CONCORD — Up to half of middle class or higher-income individuals who get no taxpayer subsidy in buying health care under Obamacare will drop coverage once they face average premium increases of 52 percent in 2018, a health insurance expert told a legislative commission Wednesday.

The soaring increases are in contrast to lower-income individuals eligible to get tax credits that offset their premium or they face no cost at all for coverage.

In 2018, they will likely pay the same or even have lower out-of-pocket costs, said Bela Gorman with Gorman Actuarial Inc. of Marlborough, Mass.

“We think price sensitive healthy individuals may exit the market which could reduce the cost gaps,” Gorman told the commission the Legislature formed to examine the future of the Premium Assistance Program (PAP) under Medicaid expansion.

About 25,000 upper income individuals get no subsidy to buy insurance under the federal exchange created by the Affordable Care Act.

Another 28,000 get some subsidy, a federal tax credit that reimburses them for some if not much of the premiums they pay for coverage.

And the third individual insurance group under Obamacare are the 43,000 in the PAP who are income eligible so that federal Medicaid dollars sent to New Hampshire cover all their premium costs.

Gorman said the soaring increases follow a few years when rates may have been artificially low and changes in market choice that will have carriers exiting the market in 2018 (Minuteman Health) and a second (Harvard Pilgrim Health Care) no longer offering a statewide network.

Facing these higher costs, Gorman estimates at least 5,300 and as many as 13,200 individual members who are healthy will drop coverage because it’s become too expensive, she said.

This will create downward pressure on future premiums for the rest remaining in the program.

Gov. Chris Sununu said these findings underscore the need to repeal and replace Obamacare.

“The projections released today by Gorman Actuarial are deeply concerning. It underscores what we have said repeatedly: Obamacare has failed and must be replaced,” Sununu said in a statement.

Greg Moore, state director of the fiscally-conservative Americans for Prosperity, said his group had predicted New Hampshire’s middle class would face crushing costs if the state expanded Medicaid.

“Make no mistake, this is precisely the impact of two terrible policy decisions: passing Obamacare by our federal delegation and expanding Medicaid by our state Legislature,” Moore said.

U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-NH, said she was “outraged” at the report and blamed it on chaos the Trump administration and Republican-led Congress have created to try and ensure that Obamacare fails.

Sen. Dan Feltes, D-Concord, stressed there are changes that could be made to the program to reduce rate increases facing those without subsidies.

“We have some options and that is what this commission is determined to look at,” Feltes said.

Among those include moving those in the Premium Assistance Program into their own risk pool. Gorman said this would lower medical claim costs by 14 percent for those left in the program.

Commission Chairman and Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, said another option would be to move out those the state identified as medically frail whose costs tend to be more than three times higher than everyone else.

Lisa Guertin, president of Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Hampshire, said 36 percent of those in her company’s Prescription Assistance Program would qualify as medically frail.

But Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeff Meyers stressed the Obama administration denied a waiver to identify those who are medically frail so they could be put into a managed care insurance plan to control costs.

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