Trump Move Will Send Insurance Premiums Soaring in Washington

The state was prepared for Trump pulling the rug out from under Obamacare. But it’s not pretty.

The Trump administration’s decision to stop payments to insurance companies that help keep premium costs down will cause the price of many health care plans in Washington to spike.

Last month, the state board in charge of administering Washington’s health insurance market approved large premium increases for plans sold in the state. The average increase was 24 percent over last year’s premiums. However, large as that premium increase is, it assumed the federal government would continue providing “cost-sharing reductions,” or CSRs, to insurance companies. Ever since Donald Trump’s election, there has been ample doubt about whether the federal payments would keep coming in, so much so that the state Insurance Commissioner actually had two rates approved: One assuming the payments would come in and another assuming they wouldn’t.

For example, for the Silver Plan offered by Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of WA on the exchange, a premium increase of 19 percent was approved, meaning customers would be paying $328 per month for the plan. But without CSRs, the plan’s cost will go up 47 percent, to $404 per month. These aren’t necessarily the prices that customers will be paying, since the Affordable Care Act offers a series of subsidies based on people’s incomes. Yet it shows just how big of blow eliminating CSRs is.

“The uncertainty surrounding cost-sharing reductions continues to weigh heavily on our state’s individual market,” said Pam MacEwan, CEO of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, said in September when the exchange board approved the plans. “We presume that the lower rate will carry through the 2018 plan year as funding for CSRs continues from the federal government. That said, it is important to prepare for a scenario where the federal government discontinues those payments.”

In a statement Friday, Insurance Commission Mike Kreidler called Trump’s move a “devastating blow to thousands of people in Washington.”

“I will be considering further action to challenge the decision and protect consumers and our individual health insurance market,” he said. He said that last year, CSRs to Washington insurers amounted to $65 million.

“Contrary to what the president says, these payments are not ‘kickbacks’ to health insurers but rather a lifeline for many consumers to afford coverage. The president’s combined decisions ignore consumer-protection recommendations from insurance regulators, doctors, health insurers, business organizations and advocates across the country,” he said.

If his Twitter account is to be believed, Trump is using the payments as way to get Democrats to compromise on reforming President Obama’s signature heath care plan.

“The Democrats ObamaCare is imploding,” he wrote. “Massive subsidy payments to their pet insurance companies has stopped. Dems should call me to fix!” However, that fix will not be a bill co-sponsored by Washington Sen. Patty Murray, according to Politico. On Friday morning, Trump’s budget director Mick Mulvaney said the administration won’t support Murray-Alexander, the bipartisan health care bill crafted by Murray and Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.

dperson@seattleweekly.com

More in News & Comment

The 2015 Wolverine Fire in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest near Lake Chelan. Photo courtesy of the Washington Department of Natural Resources.
The smoky summer that wasn’t

While Washington had a mild season, wildfires burned near the Arctic.

‘I will pay the fines’: Property owner violates city code with large sign opposing marijuana retail in Federal Way

Sign stirs controversy over property owner’s donation of building space to city for potential police substation.

Former classmates, teachers remember murdered Federal Way teen

Sarah Yarborough was strangled on FWHS campus in December 1991; her suspected killer was arrested nearly three decades later on Oct. 2.

Dane Scarimbolo and Dominique Torgerson run Four Horsemen Brewery in Kent. They were almost shut down in late 2017 by King County, which after years of letting them operate a brewery and taproom, decided they were in violation of county code. Aaron Kunkler/staff photo
Proposed winery ordinance irks King County farmers, neighbors and businesses

Concerns include more traffic, higher land prices, code enforcement and compliance.

Two Federal Way gang members charged with murder of teen dumped in Green River

Suspects allegedly brutally beat boy with a bat, chopped him with a machete before dismembering and dumping his body.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Kim Schrier held a roundtable at the Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank on Oct. 3 to talk about the Trump administration’s plan to further change SNAP food benefits rules and reduce the number of people using them. Aaron Kunkler/staff photo
Murray, Schrier vow to fight White House restrictions on food stamps

Senator and Representative met Oct. 3 at Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank.

King County is considering ways to increase both the supply of and demand for compost to help divert organic material from the landfill. File photo
King County wants to boost composting market

In 2018, around one-third of material sent to regional landfill could have been composted.

Bellevue is the most expensive place in the region to rent an apartment, according to a new analysis. Courtesy photo
Several King County cities are among most expensive to rent in Northwest

Bellevue topped the list for highest apartment rents during the first half of 2019.

Covington man arrested for 1991 cold case murder of 16-year-old Federal Way girl

The body of Sarah Yarborough, 16, was found on the Federal Way High School campus in December 1991.

Most Read