Congressional Budget Office Foresees 15% Rise in Health Insurance Rates

WASHINGTON (CN) — Citing rising uncertainty in insurance markets, the Congressional Budget Office said Thursday it expects premiums to increase by 15 percent next year under the federal health care law’s benchmark plan.

The CBO report largely attributes the hike in premiums to the uncertainty whether Congress and the Trump administration will allow the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s federal subsidies to survive, but also to a larger percentage of people living where only one insurer participates in the health care marketplace.

The report estimates that increased premiums could result in 2 million people losing their health insurance next year, though nearly 90 percent of the population will remain covered. Most U.S. residence get health insurance through their employer, though the CBO projects that 5 million people will drop out of employer-based coverage in the next 10 years. This will happen because some employers won’t offer coverage, and some people will decide not to buy insurance as their healthcare premiums rise more quickly than their wages, according to the report.

The report, “Federal Subsidies for Health Insurance Coverage for People Under Age 65: 2017 to 2027,” comes as the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is holding hearings on legislation that could help stabilize insurance markets, and a day after Republicans and Democrats offered diametrically opposed plans to replace the Affordable Care Act.

The Republican plan would give the federal money that funds the health care program directly to the states as block grants, for the states to create their own health insurance programs. Proposed by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Bill Cassidy, R-La., Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Ron Johnson R-Wis., on Wednesday, the plan came together during the Republican attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act in July.

Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., released his long-awaited Medicare-for-All bill, which would create a single-payer health care program in the United States over four years. These plans bill would cover all hospital and emergency services, as well as dental and mental health treatments.

Neither plan appears likely to succeed, as Republican leadership has not been outright supportive of the Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson bill and a Democratic health care plan is all but doomed in this Republican-controlled Congress.

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