Californians worry as Republican plans cause health insurance rate spikes

Congressman Dana Rohrabacher

Congressman Dana Rohrabacher and fellow Republicans voted for policies that make health insurance more expensive for most and out of reach for many.

Joanne Stoecker, a health care professional and patient advocate, has one word for Congressman Dana Rohrabacher’s votes to sabotage the health care system: “inhumane.”

“He obviously does not understand health care,” Stoecker told SoCal Daily.

Stoecker, a constituent in Rohrabacher’s district, is concerned that rising health care costs will lead to fewer people with insurance because some people are forced to go without care.

Her dismay comes as Californians prepare for health insurance companies to release 2019 rate increases. Republican policies will be the main driver in premium increases, according to insurance executives.

Two states have already announced increases. The average plan increase in Maryland is 30 percent across the board, but some companies are requesting much higher increases. CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, a mid-Atlantic health insurance company, requested a 91 percent increase in their Maryland PPO plan. And in Virginia, CareFirst is looking for a 64 percent increase for one of it’s plans.

Judging from the dramatic premium increases in Maryland and Virginia, Californians should prepare themselves for steep hikes. Covered California already anticipates increases of up to 30 percent next year.

“The number of uninsured goes back up. And then, the number of bankruptcies are going to go back up,” warned Dr. Bill Honigman in an interview with SoCal Daily Media. Honigman is a retired emergency room physician who spent 30 years working in Orange County.

Honigman is concerned that changes brought about by Rohrabacher and other Republicans in Washington, D.C., will bring us back to an era of bankruptcies from high medical costs. According to Jim Molleur, who spoke to Consumer Reports, the ACA helped cut the number of personal bankruptcies in half.

“It’s absolutely remarkable,” says Jim Molleur, a Maine-based bankruptcy attorney with 20 years of experience. “We’re not getting people with big medical bills, chronically sick people who would hit those lifetime caps or be denied because of pre-existing conditions. They seemed to disappear almost overnight once ACA kicked in.

Bankruptcies aren’t the only worry. Echoes of the housing crisis are on Stoecker’s mind.

“I think people will begin losing their homes again,” Stoecker said.

After the ACA was signed, more than 20 million people gained health insurance. Then Rohrabacher and Republicans started their efforts to “roll back the ACA,” says Honigman.

And Republicans policies are starting to impact Americans. Since Republicans took control of the federal government in 2016, four million people have lost health insurance.

Chet Burrell, CEO of CareFirst, recently said changes and instability, under Republican leadership in Congress and in the White House, has made the situation “materially worse.”

“Continuing actions on the part of the administration to systematically undermine the market and make it almost impossible to carry out the mission,” he continued.

In the coming weeks, insurance agencies will release their requested increases. State regulators must ultimately approve the final premium rates, which are usually announced in October each year.

Voters — like Shoecker, Honigman, and millions of others — will go to the polls in early November.

“In a civilized society,” Honigman added, “you don’t let a large number of your own people suffer.”