President Trump’s threats and actions to undermine Obamacare come at a cost: In a report released Thursday, the Congressional Budget Office projects that premiums for benchmark silver plans will increase by an average of 15 percent next year.
The nonpartisan budget referee expects premiums for those plans to rise by 5 percent a year until 2027. But the projected jump for next year is much steeper, the CBO says, “largely because of short-term market uncertainty—in particular, insurers’ uncertainty about whether federal funding for certain subsidies that are currently available will continue to be provided— and an increase in the percentage of the population living in areas with only one insurer in the marketplace.”
The Trump administration has not yet said whether it will continue to pay roughly $7 billion a year for so-called cost-sharing reductions — subsidies that help reduce deductibles and co-pays for low-income enrollees. In the meantime, it has slashed spending on advertising and outreach, and shortened the enrollment period to six weeks from about three months. This week, the Department of Health and Human Services told groups that assist with Obamacare enrollments that their budgets will be cut, in some cases by more than 90 percent. (For more on the effects of these cuts, check out this piece at Vox by Lori Lodes, the former director of the office of communications at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.)
As a result of those cuts to programs driving signups and of the higher premiums it expects, CBO also projects future enrollment through Obamacare exchanges to be lower than it had previously forecast. A March 2016 CBO report projected that about 18 million Americans would be covered through the Obamacare marketplaces by 2018. The new report projects that enrollment will climb from 10 million this year to 11 million next year and then stabilize at around 12 million from 2019 through 2027.
CBO last month said that if President Trump followed through on his threat to cut federal cost-sharing subsidies, silver plan premiums would rise by an average of 20 percent next year and, as a result, the federal deficit would climb by $194 billion through 2026 as the cost of government tax credits increased along with the rising premiums.
Insurers have until September 27 to decide whether and how they will participate in Obamacare markets.