Following multiple years of increases in health insurance premiums, some by double and triple digits, Arizona may finally see premiums fall more than 4 percent in this upcoming year. Arizona is one of only 11 states that are looking at a drop in premium rates. This is a very sharp turnaround for the state of Arizona, which is state where a premium increase of 116 percent in 2017 was cited by President Trump as proof that the Affordable Care Act should be repealed. However, in the next upcoming year of 2019, according to a recent analysis by the Associated Press and the health care consulting firm Avalere, the average premium cost will decrease from about $630 to $604, before government subsidies.
This survey, recently released, looked at forecasts for premium rates in every state for the next year. While many states are looking at an increase in premiums, the growth is considered more moderate than in the past. The biggest increase comes out of Washington state, at 18.8% . Many experts say that the rates are stabilizing around the nation because insurance companies are finally making money as a result of the ACA, also known as Obamacare.
Rabah Kamal, a policy analyst at the Kaiser Family Foundation said that insurers have actually been turning a profit under the ACA, and so, there really is not a reason for major increases on premiums going into the next year. Arizona’s projected premiums for 2019 are still preliminary, and may not be finalized until this October, according to the Arizona Department for Insurance. Kamal has also noted that despite the overall better picture nationally, the rates would have been even better if Obamacare had not recently been repealed. Under the ACA’s “individual mandate”, individuals were required to have health insurance or pay a premium.
The Supreme Court, in 2012, said that although the mandate itself may have been unconstitutional, the penalty that came with it also qualified it as a tax, which is allowed by Congress. This past December, Congress passed a tax reform act, that was then signed by the President, that effectively repealed this penalty. This was followed by a lawsuit from 20 states, including Arizona, argues that Congress removed any legal protection for the mandate when it removed the penalty, which made the entire law unconstitutional.
A director of health policy studies at the Cato Institute, Michael Cannon, said that the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the ACA was “just awful”. He also said that if people were better educated and more informed about the ACA, it would have been repealed a long time ago. A decision on the lawsuit brought by the states is expected soon, and is currently being heard at a federal district court in Texas. If the district court rules to repeal the mandate, it could start removing the entire healthcare act, ultimately killing it, says a spokeswoman for Arizona Health Care Voters, Morgan Tucker. She notes that it would put anyone with a pre-existing medical condition at risk of losing their healthcare coverage and would give insurers freedom to charge individuals whatever they want for healthcare.
Under the current law, insurers cannot charge more to sick people than they do to healthy people of the same age, which Michael Cannon says, drives up premiums for everyone. Cannon believes that the ACA ruins equality and encourages a freeloading society. In contract, Tucker thinks this is a common misconception. Healthcare is by no means free, she notes, and Americans should unite to help finance everyone’s right to medical treatment when needed. She says that the uninsured still get sick, but without insurance, the cost of their care will ultimately fall to the government.