Obamacare looking healthy for 2019, despite attacks

More insurers. Only a few huge price hikes. Even some premium decreases.This is what Obamacare looks ...

Posted: Sep 8, 2018 4:49 AM
Updated: Sep 8, 2018 4:49 AM

More insurers. Only a few huge price hikes. Even some premium decreases.

This is what Obamacare looks like for 2019.

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Despite President Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans' attempts to wound the landmark health reform law, Obamacare is surviving -- and even growing stronger.

The landscape is markedly different than at this time a year ago, when insurers were fleeing the marketplace or hiking rates to combat all the GOP-fueled uncertainty surrounding the Affordable Care Act.

Yet, questions still abound for 2019.

Next year will be the first time that Americans will not have to pay the penalty for being uninsured since the Obamacare insurance exchanges opened in 2014. Congress eliminated the individual mandate penalty as part of last year's tax overhaul.

Also, the Trump administration is making it easier for people to buy alternative policies that will likely be less expensive, but won't provide the same benefits, particularly for those with pre-existing conditions.

All these changes are expected to siphon younger and healthier enrollees out of the exchanges, experts say. That could prompt insurers to raise rates for the older and sicker folks who remain in Obamacare policies.

Plus, Obamacare is facing new threats from the nation's judicial system. The US Senate is wrapping up Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who Obamacare supporters fear would vote to overturn the health reform law. And a US District Court judge in Texas this week heard arguments in a case that seeks to bring down the Affordable Care Act by having major portions or the entire law declared unconstitutional.

So far, however, many insurers are keeping price increases in check. Several have even said they would have raised rates even less -- or decreased them -- if Congress hadn't eliminated the individual mandate penalty.

In Kansas, insurers requested rate increases of slightly less than 6%, on average, which is significantly lower than in past years, said Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer.

"We again have a competitive market in Kansas for 2019 with every county having plan choices available from multiple insurance carriers," he said.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is cutting its rates by 4.1%, on average. This marks the insurer's first premium reduction since it entered the state's individual market more than 25 years ago. It attributed the decrease to new deals with health care providers to keep costs in check.

Still "to keep driving premiums down, we need more market stability and more certainty from Washington," said Patrick Conway, CEO of Blue Cross North Carolina.

In Tennessee, where rates had risen more than 176% since the exchanges opened in 2014, two insurers are planning price breaks for next year. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, the state's largest carrier, filed for a 15% cut in premiums, while Cigna is requesting a nearly 13% decrease. A third insurer, Oscar Health, asked for a 7.3% increase.

Overall, insurers have requested or received premium increases of 3.6%, on average, across 47 states and Washington, D.C., for next year, according to an analysis by the Associated Press and Avalere Health, released Friday. That compares to a 30% increase for 2018.

"This year, double-digit increases are by far the exception," said Katherine Hempstead, senior policy adviser at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. "Last year, they were the rule."

Insurers are also returning to the exchanges after several years of exits. Tennessee, which had 11 insurers in 2016 but only three this year, will have five next year.

Anthem, a major player in the individual market that pulled out of several states last year, is expanding its presence in Kentucky and Virginia and returning to Maine for 2019. Oscar is entering Florida, Arizona and Michigan, while broadening its reach in Ohio, Tennessee and Texas.

A little more than one-third of counties examined by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will have more insurers than last year, said Hempstead, who looked at half of the nation's states. There will be very few reductions in coverage.

"Those carriers that stayed in the market have figured out how to make money," Hempstead said. "Looking at that has attracted some interest from others."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 514171

Reported Deaths: 10285
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34920557
DeSoto33270432
Hinds32652642
Jackson24876391
Rankin22516404
Lee16366245
Madison14932283
Jones14129247
Forrest13785260
Lauderdale12279324
Lowndes11314193
Lamar10663140
Pearl River9720244
Lafayette8855143
Hancock7839132
Washington7553169
Oktibbeha7216138
Monroe7036179
Pontotoc7003109
Warren6872178
Panola6768135
Neshoba6732210
Marshall6686142
Bolivar6451151
Union640898
Pike5933156
Alcorn5887107
Lincoln5533136
George510380
Prentiss505385
Tippah492783
Itawamba4857107
Scott478199
Adams4771125
Tate4765117
Leflore4736144
Copiah457095
Yazoo456692
Simpson4554117
Wayne443172
Covington434695
Sunflower4315106
Marion4279112
Coahoma4238109
Leake414090
Newton395782
Tishomingo384894
Grenada3777109
Stone365766
Jasper340866
Attala338790
Winston317892
Chickasaw316167
Clay312578
Clarke301295
Calhoun285949
Holmes271889
Smith269452
Yalobusha244247
Tallahatchie232053
Greene224749
Walthall221866
Lawrence219141
Perry213456
Amite209857
Webster206248
Noxubee188743
Montgomery181857
Carroll174941
Jefferson Davis173843
Tunica163339
Benton153139
Kemper145041
Choctaw136727
Claiborne134439
Humphreys132139
Franklin126029
Quitman107628
Wilkinson106139
Jefferson96934
Sharkey65321
Issaquena1957
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 845761

Reported Deaths: 16119
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1161862004
Mobile742411381
Madison53315732
Shelby38351369
Baldwin38104589
Tuscaloosa36052641
Montgomery34492781
Lee25590263
Calhoun22598518
Morgan22459406
Etowah20026518
Marshall18790316
Houston17741425
St. Clair16904358
Limestone16153219
Cullman16067303
Elmore15912294
Lauderdale14991306
Talladega14209299
DeKalb12985269
Walker12067380
Blount10729192
Autauga10526157
Jackson10170194
Coffee9425192
Colbert9341208
Dale9024192
Tallapoosa7273201
Russell708865
Chilton7042170
Escambia6956143
Covington6943195
Franklin6338108
Chambers5785142
Marion5413130
Dallas5295209
Pike5123109
Clarke484886
Lawrence4831129
Winston4780110
Geneva4643136
Bibb434594
Barbour369980
Butler3439100
Marengo342393
Monroe337466
Randolph334867
Pickens333988
Fayette330085
Henry320766
Hale318489
Cherokee318363
Crenshaw260777
Washington256952
Cleburne254560
Lamar251953
Clay251169
Macon245064
Conecuh193162
Coosa185547
Lowndes178268
Wilcox177638
Bullock152545
Perry141840
Sumter139241
Greene130245
Choctaw93228
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