Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

Average 'ObamaCare' rate hike for metro ATL? It's 4.7 percent

In every year of ObamaCare's existence, we've been treated to breathless claims that next year, it would send insurance rates through the roof. Next year, next year, next year, just you wait 'til next year, the prophets of doom would tell us. Last week, I even had a gentleman on Twitter tell me that he has suffered triple-digit rate increases for each of the last three years, which if true would mean that he is paying at least eight times as much for coverage as he was three years ago.

That is not true.

Here's what is true. On Monday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released its annual rate data for the 2016 enrollment period, which opens Nov. 1. Among its findings:

  • "The average rate increase for a benchmark plan across 30 of the largest markets, representing 60 percent of Marketplace enrollees, is 6.3 percent."
  • "Across all markets in the 37 states (served by the federal system), the cost of the benchmark plan will increase an average of 7.5 percent."

Here in Georgia, the cost of the second-lowest-cost "silver plan," the plan used as the benchmark by the IRS in figuring subsidies, will increase by an average of 6.1 percent. In the metro Atlanta market, the cost of the benchmark plan will increase by 4.7 percent.  Those increases are not insignificant, but they are considerably smaller than many of the increases that we saw prior to 2009 and that helped drive passage of ObamaCare in the first place. As of 2015, more than 540,000 Georgians are using the federal marketplace to buy their health insurance, and at least eight out of 10 benefit from subsidies to help bring their payments in line with their income.

Nonetheless, Republicans in Congress claim to still be hell-bent on repealing the program or at least doing it so much damage that it can no longer operate. They do so despite warnings from the GOP-run Congressional Budget Office that repeal would increase the deficit by $353 billion over the next decade and would immediately strip 19 million Americans of health insurance.

And we still have several hundred thousand Georgians -- more than half of them in working families  -- who are still being denied coverage because our elected representatives under the Gold Dome have refused to expand Medicaid. Those elected "leaders" simply can't be seen cooperating with the hated President Obama in any way, even if their stubborn refusal means the loss of $3 billion in federal aid this year alone, the loss of tens of thousands of jobs that aid would help create, the closure of financially struggling rural hospitals, and the unnecessary illnesses and deaths of Georgia citizens who are forced to go without coverage.

None of that apparently matters much to them.

And please, spare me the claims that we can't afford to pay our share of that coverage. With a median household income of $49,555, Georgia is considerably more prosperous than fellow "red states" such as Arkansas ($44,922), Kentucky ($42,786) and West Virginia ($39,522), all of which have committed to find the money to pay their state share. This is a choice that we are making, a choice to deny basic health coverage to hundreds of thousands of our fellow Georgians just to make a political point.

My mother used to have a phrase for behavior like that. "You'd cut off your nose to spite your face," she'd say, and for the longest time I didn't know what she meant by it.

I do now.


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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.