By Sarah Farris, The Hill
The next president could be dealing with an ObamaCare insurer meltdown in his or her very first month.
The incoming administration will take office just as the latest ObamaCare enrollment tally comes in, delivering a potentially crucial verdict about the still-shaky healthcare marketplaces.
The fourth ObamaCare signup period begins about one week before Election Day, and it will end about one week before inauguration on Jan. 20. After mounting complaints from big insurers about losing money this year, the results could serve as a kind of judgment day for ObamaCare, experts say.
“The next open enrollment period is key,” said Larry Levitt, senior vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation.
The Obama administration has struggled for several years to bring young, healthy people into the marketplaces, which is needed to offset the medical costs of older and sicker customers.
These problems are coming to light this year, as insurers get their first full look at ObamaCare customer data. Some, like UnitedHealth Group, say they’ve seen enough and are already vowing to leave the exchanges.
Levitt and other experts warn that if the numbers don’t improve this year, more insurers could bolt. That would deal a major blow to marketplace competition while also driving up rates and keeping even more people out of the exchanges.
Already, many insurers this year are proposing substantial rate hikes with the hopes of making up for higher recent medical costs. The average premium increase next year is about 9 percent, according to an analysis of 17 cities by the Kaiser Family Foundation. But some hikes are far higher: Blue Cross Blue Shield has proposed increases of 40 percent in Alabama and 60 percent in Texas.
Levitt said the premium hikes could be “just be a one-time market correction” in the still-new marketplace. But if insurers continue to lose money, it could be a sign of bigger problems.
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