Report: GOP sabotage doubles California health care premium increase

Republican policies are making health care more expensive in California.

Covered California proposes raising health care premiums by 11 percent next year, and more than half of that increase is because of Republicans changes to health care policy.

Republican health care sabotage doubled the 2019 proposed premium increase for Californians, according to Covered California. Covered California is proposing an 11 percent increase for health care premiums in 2019, and 13 percent increase in 2020. The increase in 2019 would have only been 5 percent, except Republicans like Reps. Mimi Walters (Irvine) and Steve Knight (Palmdale) voted for policy changes tucked into the unpopular tax bill, resulting in significantly higher premiums.

“The elimination of the [individual] mandate is projected to drive premium growth of 6 percent in 2019,” says Covered California. When Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act failed, the changes called out by Covered California were slipped into the unpopular Republican tax bill, which passed in December 2017.

In addition to a double-digit premium increase, the report estimates a 12 percent decline in enrollment, meaning more people forgoing health insurance. As SoCal Daily previously reported, Californians are worried that expensive health care will lead to more bankruptcies and a possible return to people losing their houses because of medical bills.

The premium increases will mainly impact those who buy health insurance through the individual marketplace without subsidies, which is about 1.2 million Californians. “The working middle class that are not getting subsidies got hit hardest in 2018 and would be hit hardest in 2019,” Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee said in January.

However, Republican sabotage will also impact those who receive health insurance through their employers.

Nationally, the rate of uninsured Americans is expected to increase from 12 percent to up to 16 percent. Covered California estimates the rise in the number of uninsured will increase uncompensated care by up to $7 billion in 2019 “as a result of more uninsured patients seeking care at hospitals and health providers.” In California alone, uncompensated care is expected to rise by up to $1 billion. SF Gate explains how this would impact the broader population:

If those costs are shifted to private insurance, it would lead to a 2 to 4 percent increase in the cost of employer-sponsored health coverage, according to the analysis. That increase is likely to be shared between the employer and the employee.

In an earlier report, Covered California noted that “the individual insurance markets were largely stabilizing in terms of enrollment and issuer profitability,” before Republicans took control of Congress and the White House.

“Washington Republicans recklessly gutted the Affordable Care Act in order to give a huge tax handout to large corporations, and now hundreds of thousands of working families in California are going to pay the price,” says DCCC spokesperson Drew Godinich in a statement to SoCal Daily. “This is a moral and political catastrophe, and there is no question that voters are going to punish House Republicans for this all-out assault on their personal financial security.”

In March, voters anxiety around health care costs was increasing. A Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) poll taken in March 2018 showed more than 2 in 3 Americans “very worried” or “somewhat worried” that rate hikes will make coverage unaffordable, a dramatic increase from 38 percent who felt that way in October 2017.

Voters have expressed a clear preference for politicians who support lower, not higher, health care costs. For example, more than 60 percent of voters said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who wants to lower the cost of health care when asked in a May 2018 poll from KFF.

Republican policy changes have already led to roughly four million Americans losing health insurance.

And now, the relentless assault on health care championed by House Speaker Paul Ryan, and loyally supported by Knight, Walters, and other Republicans, are responsible for doubling the increase of health care premiums for Californians.