HHS paints a rosy scenario noting that the number of participating insurers is up 25% across the country.
The report indicates Ohio’s exchange will have a greater number of insurers than most other federally assisted exchanges. Open enrollment starts in November and Ohioans will choose from plan offerings from 16 companies.
Gongwer quotes from a statement from HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell who is keen on putting a happy face on Obamacare,
“’When consumers have more choices, we all benefit,’ she said in a statement, calling the report’s findings ‘very encouraging’ and ‘a real sign that the Affordable Care Act is working.’”
But, Ohio Department of Insurance spokesman Chris Brock administers a healthy dose of reality to readers. Gongwer quotes Brock,
“While more insurer participation in the market is encouraging, it’s important to note the number companies on the federal exchange is still significantly less than sold health insurance products in Ohio prior to the ACA. In addition, all insurers are being forced to sell the same ACA-compliant plans leaving consumers with fewer choices and options no matter which insurer they select.”
Brock told Gongwer that more than 60 companies offered health insurance plans to Ohioans before Obamacare.
A big thank you to Mr. Brock for pointing out what Ohioans have lost in terms of consumer choice since Obamacare was implemented as you would be hard-pressed to find any comparison to the pre-Obamacare market in HHS’ report.
So the real picture in Ohio is that since Obamacare was implemented consumers are facing a dwindling health care market. A dwindling market means a decline in consumer choice, innovation, and pricing pressure.
Gongwer notes that the average monthly premium for individual plans on the Ohio exchange will increase from $332.58 per month in 2014 to $372.86 for 2015 – a hike of $40 per month or $480 per year. This represents a premium increase of 12%, a significant jump especially considering the Consumer Price Index went up 1.7% since August 2013.
In its report, HHS explains the importance of competition to pricing, innovation, and product choice. The report reads,
“Previous research has found that the number of issuers in a rating area is associated with more affordable premiums for benchmark plans for individuals and reduced costs for the federal government. Additionally, in 2014, areas with a larger number of issuers were found to offer a wider range of choices among plan types…Furthermore, reports indicate that some of the largest insurers in the nation are increasing their participation in the Marketplaces in 2015. Independent research has found that participation by a large issuer could significantly reduce benchmark premiums.”
HHS knows competition means better value for the consumer, but HHS is unwilling to acknowledge that real competition is not possible in the absence of a free market. The Obamacare exchanges with their essential health benefit packages and taxpayer subsidies discourage new sellers from entering the market and mask the true costs of Obamacare.
If HHS wants an honest gauge of Obamacare’s success, it will need to compare its exchange model to pre-Obamacare market conditions. But doing so will expose Obamacare for the sham that it is.