After Year One Of Obamacare, Kansas’ Uninsured Rate Is Up Five Percent

Sarah Hurtubise | Reporter

The number of uninsured Americans has risen in three states in the first year after Obamacare — a surprise for both sides of the aisle. 

The uninsured populations in Kansas, Iowa and Virginia have all expanded in the past year, according to a Tuesday Gallup poll. Iowa and Virginia saw smaller increases from 2013 to 2014 of just 0.6 percent and 0.1 percent respectively, but Kansas’s uninsured rate surged upward by 5.1 percent.

It’s unexpected by almost anyone’s standards — while conservatives have opposed Obamacare for a host of reasons, even experts that project Obamacare will hike premiums and lower quality expected the law’s mandate to carry coverage to lower the uninsured rate, at least at first. Eventually, University of Minnesota economist Stephen Parente predicts that Obamacare will raise health insurance costs so drastically that it’ll counteract the individual mandate penalty and subsidies for the eligible — but doesn’t expect that to hit for another several years.

None of the three states expanded their Medicaid programs through Obamacare, which some liberal commentators have seized as the culprit. But a lack of expansion doesn’t explain the increasing number of uninsured.

This year, the individual mandate penalty is at its lowest; Obamacare subsidies are in place; and while premiums are growing significantly, they’ll likely only get higher in the future. So in theory, this year had great conditions for lowering the uninsured rate — and in all other states, the number of uninsured did fall. (RELATED: Virginia First To Release Post-Obamacare Premium Proposals: Rate Hikes For All)

Kansas and Iowa did accept the Obama administration’s belated, half-hearted extension of individual policies that aren’t compliant with Obamacare; Virginia did not, according to The Commonwealth Fund. While Americans protested the millions of scheduled insurance cancellations, insurers who were promised a larger influx of potential customers on Obamacare exchanges have been hit with a sicker population than they expected as a result, which is likely forcing even higher premium hikes and could make state residents less likely to purchase coverage.

In Iowa, insurance companies even cited the extension of non-compliant plans as a primary reason for large premium rate hikes. (RELATED: Obamacare Delay Sparks More Premium Hikes In Iowa)

But the real premium hikes aren’t even here yet, according to experts. Obamacare included three risk mitigation provisions to keep insurance companies from hiking premiums drastically out of fear in the first several years that Obamacare is in effect — but two will run out in 2016.

Parente predicts that the country will be in store for dramatic premium increases in 2017, the first year that the risk corridors and the temporary reinsurance programs will no longer be in effect. According to Parente’s data, in 2016, Obamacare will lower the number of uninsured Americans to 30 million, down from the current rate, but will shoot back up to 36.1 million in 2017 when premiums rise.

Gallup’s numbers aren’t exact and it’s not clear what could be causing these states uninsured rates to rise, especially as dramatically as Kansas’ has. But it’s clear that customers are being hit with much higher health insurance premiums in the wake of Obamacare — and that at the same time, Obamacare customers are facing higher out-of-pocket costs and narrower networks. While these states appear to be feeling the brunt of Obamacare earlier than expected, the rest of the country may catch up to them.

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