Premiums Continue To Skyrocket While Congress Does Nothing

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Robert Donachie Capitol Hill and Health Care Reporter
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Health insurance providers are planning some double-digit increases in premiums for plans offered on the Obamacare state exchanges in 2018, a sign that the insurance marketplace woes are only getting worse.

Insurance premiums in states from Georgia to New York will increase dramatically in 2018, rising as high as 57 percent in some areas.

Georgia state Commissioner of Insurance Ralph Hudgens approved premium increases 57.5 percent, he told The New York Times. The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation announced in late September that Obamacare compliant health insurance plan premiums will rise, on average, 47.5 percent starting Jan. 1, 2018. Similar plans in Florida are expected to rise roughly 14 percent.

Republicans recently failed to pass an Obamacare repeal bill, known as Graham-Cassidy. After two weeks of trying to get senators behind the bill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky tabled it last week once it became certain the bill would not pass if put up for a vote.

Republican leadership is moving on to push tax reform, which the GOP believes has a shot at making its way through Congress. Only after taking a swipe at tax reform will Republicans consider touching health care legislation.

“What I would expect is that we take a clear shot at taxes. We’ll use the time to come up with a better process for health care,” Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “We will have a debate worthy of a great country and when taxes are over early next year, which is what I envision, we’ll go back to repealing and replacing Obamacare.”

While the administration and Republicans focus their efforts on selling a tax bill to Democrats, members of their own party and voters, Americans are left with the backbreaking costs to obtain health insurance. There is no guarantee Congress will address the problem in the coming months.

GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington were considering putting forth a bill to shore up Obamacare state exchanges and bolster the individual insurance marketplace.

The Alexander-Murray proposal was likely going to continue funding Obamacare subsidy payments called cost-sharing reductions (CSRs). CSRs help cover the cost of deductibles for low-income consumers on the exchanges, allow consumers to purchase catastrophic health care plans and for the expansion of state waivers. The waivers — commonly known as 1332 waivers — let states innovate implementation of Obamacare as long as the state meets basic Affordable Care Act protections.

The bill never materialized out of the Senate Health committee, but there are signs the proposal may make a resurgence in the coming months.

“Sen. Alexander briefed us just a little bit today on where they are. They are still discussing and they are reaching some conclusions. The question is whether or not when the present, if there is going to be sufficient support to move forward with something,” GOP Sen. John Thune of South Dokata told reporters Tuesday. “I don’t know the answer to that at this point.”

Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia and GOP Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio released a bill Tuesday that aims to make employer reporting requirement under Obamacare more efficient.

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