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Trump Administration Announces Decline in Obamacare Premiums

Mairead McArdle

The Trump administration announced Tuesday that premiums for Affordable Care Act plans will be about four percent cheaper on average beginning next year and credited President Trump’s market-based reforms with lowering costs.

The lower average benchmark premium, which is expected to drop from $406 to $388, will mark the second consecutive year in which rates have dropped. Of the 38 states using the federal Obamacare exchanges, six states will experience double-digit declines, but three will see double-digit increases.

Open enrollment for 2020 begins next week, and 20 new insurance plans will be debuted, the administration said.

The administration cited several policies that it said have contributed to the decrease in premiums, including the approval of a dozen requests from states for reinsurance programs, which shield insurance companies from covering the entire cost associated with the most expensive patients. Officials have also expanded options for less comprehensive and cheaper plans that appeal to a younger, healthier demographic.

While working to enact minor reforms, the administration also tried to undermine the system when it scrapped the law’s individual mandate in the 2017 tax reform bill, which effectively amounts to a tax levied against consumers who choose to go uninsured. The administration has also supported a lawsuit filed by several red states challenging whether the entire Obamacare law can stand without the individual mandate, which they say is unconstitutional.

“The ACA simply doesn’t work and it is still unaffordable for far too many,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar insisted. “But until Congress gets around to replacing it, President Trump will do what he can to fix the problems created by this system for millions of Americans.”

“The president who was supposedly trying to sabotage this law has been better at running [the Affordable Care Act] than the guy who wrote the law,” Azar told reporters.

Democrats and supporters of the law objected, saying the law has simply settled into the marketplaces and the administration deserves no credit for the market stabilization.

“Despite the Trump administration’s effort over the last two years to sabotage the Affordable Care Act, the record average rate decrease and interest by insurers is evidence that our market is stabilizing,” said Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler.

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