According to Health and Human Services Secretary Alexander Azar, President Trump is doing a better job with Obamacare than President Obama did. Speaking to the Nashville Health Care Council on September 28, Azar cited a projected decrease in 2019 health insurance premiums as evidence of the current administration’s achievements.
Lower Premiums for the First Time in Years
The Obamacare insurance market appears to be stabilizing. For several months, the consensus has been that premium rates aren’t going to skyrocket in 2019. Azar had even better news to share with those in attendance at the council’s event: Many Americans may see lower premiums in 2019 than they did in 2018.
Nationwide, the average cost of a benchmark plan – the second-lowest silver plan in a market – will drop by 2 percent. This will be the first time that this figure has gone down since the Affordable Care Act went into effect.
Consumers will also have more choices when purchasing marketplace health insurance for 2019. In many markets, new insurers will offer on-exchange plans for the first time while insurers that left the markets in some areas are planning to come back for next year.
Per Azar, these are signs that Trump is doing what is best for Obamacare. From loosening regulations on non-ACA plans to removing the individual mandate penalty, Trump’s approach has been to increase consumer choices. In his speech, Azar claimed that moves like these have been significantly better for the healthcare industry than anything that Obama did.
Some experts disagree with Azar’s assessment. They argue that premiums aren’t rising this year simply because they rose too steeply last year. Insurers sharply increased 2018 rates in response to the elimination of cost sharing subsidies. In many cases, these carriers may have overcorrected, so they don’t need to hike rates again this year.
Others assert that Trump, who has repeatedly attempted to dismantle the ACA, cannot take credit for improvements to the health insurance industry.
Azar on the Future of Healthcare
Such critics will likely continue to be frustrated with Trump’s approach. Azar made it clear that the administration doesn’t believe that the job of repairing the ACA is finished. Although premium reductions may show that the market is beginning to stabilize, it’s still not the sort of system that the Trump administration has in mind. In fact, the HHS secretary emphasized to council attendees that Obamacare will never be satisfactory to this administration.
Instead, the administration remains focused on repealing the ACA and replacing it with a different system. Azar’s remarks point toward a healthcare system focused on individual consumer choice rather than government mandates. Legislative power would lie primarily at the state level instead of belonging to the federal government.
Azar spoke strongly against the idea of expanding the federal government’s role in healthcare. He firmly denounced the viability of a so-called “Medicare for All” system. This type of proposal would create a single, government-run healthcare system for all Americans.
Trump and his administration argue that such a system would be economically disastrous. Azar explained to his Nashville audience that medical providers wouldn’t receive large enough payments to keep them in business, and the costs of establishing and maintaining the program would be excessively burdensome on the federal government.
The way the Trump administration sees it, federal involvement in healthcare has done nothing but create a nationwide mess. They believe that the president is doing the best he can with the lot he’s been handed, but the only responsible long-term solution is less government intervention, not more.