Obamacare premiums are increasing in states where Democrats are staging competitive races for the Senate, giving GOP candidates there a powerful weapon with the midterm election just weeks away.
Insurance costs aren't going up for individual health plans everywhere, reports Politico
, and in some states, they're even dropping. But double-digit increases are hitting particularly hard in Louisiana, Iowa, and Alaska, three states where Democratic candidates can ill afford an "October surprise" that will hurt their races, according to Politico.
Louisiana GOP Rep. Bill Cassidy, who is campaigning to unseat incumbent Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu, said the rate hikes are "another hurdle for families and businesses already struggling under the demands of Obamacare." He adds that Democrats made "false promises," saying the premiums would drop.
Joni Ernst, the Republican Senate candidate in Iowa, slammed her Democratic challenger, Rep. Bruce Braley, for supporting Obamacare, complaining that "thousands of Iowans are paying for it."
But even with the attacks, the insurance rate hikes in most places are modest, said Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Family Foundation.
"In general, the premium increases have been pretty modest," he told Politico. "But there are exceptions, and the exceptions happen to be in states with competitive races."
Alaska's rate increases are staggering, however, reports the Alaska Dispatch New
s. Premera Blue Cross is planning hikes of 35 percent to 45 percent, and Moda Health is raising its rates between 22 and 28.8 percent.
In Louisiana, the state's largest insurer, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana, plans to raise its rates by between 18.3 percent and 19.7 percent for 50,000 people, Politico said. Humana's premiums will rise by almost 10 percent, and Vantage Health Plan plans increases of nearly 16 percent.
Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield is raising rates in in Iowa between 11.9 percent and 14.5 percent for ACA-compliant plans, although it says it is not joining the federal exchanges again this year, reports The Des Moines Register
CoOportunity will raise its rates by about 19 percent, and Coventry is going up by about 9 percent. Both CoOportunity and Coventry are on the federal exchanges.
The next enrollment season will not start until Nov. 15, after the midterm elections, so any requested increases should become final this month. But Democrats say they're not worried because Obamacare no longer dominates news coverage.
Louisiana and Iowa GOP committees have not yet used the matter in ads, although they've used social media and press statements to pass the word. In Alaska, though, Freedom Partners Action Fund, a super PAC launched by the Koch brothers, has run an ad slamming incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Begich for the increases.
Begich has been running ads himself, promising that he's working on a low-cost "copper plan" and that "every day, I'm working to fix it."
But even in states where the biggest hikes are reported, Obama administration officials claim most customers won't see the increases, reports Politico.
According to a study by PWC's Health Research Institute
, the average increase nationwide is about 6 percent, and just eight states have the double-digit increases.
"It's not the terrible, double-digit increases that everyone had feared," said Ceci Connolly, the institute's managing director. She said a 6 percent increase "is tracking pretty closely" with premiums of employer-sponsored programs.
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