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Friday, Nov 28, 2014
Commentary

It’s hurricane season for Tampa area health care


Published:   |   Updated: August 20, 2014 at 02:13 PM

Hurricanes usually play out as advertised — even the weatherman knows we’ll have high winds and high waters. The same can’t be said about the hurricane that’s pummeling our health care.

Recently, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation announced that almost everyone in our state will be drowning in higher health care costs next year, despite Washington’s promise that Obamacare would prevent this from happening.

This hurricane shows no signs of letting up. The state government now estimates that individual health insurance rates for 2015 will increase by an average of 13.2 percent across the state. Family plans will take a similar hit, with almost all of Florida’s 67 counties seeing double-digit spikes.

The damage will be substantial. According to the new numbers, a family in Hillsborough county earning $51,000 will pay 13.4 percent more in premiums — even after subsidies — for a middle-of-the-road silver plan, the most popular choice available on the federal exchange.

This is the last thing that Florida families need. Our state’s average 2014 premiums are already 40 percent higher than they were last year, when Obamacare wasn’t in effect. Now we’re being dragged further out to sea.

It’s no secret that Floridians are struggling with these never-ending increases, especially seniors who live on fixed incomes. The average 64-year-old in our state saw his or her premiums go up by nearly $2,000 in the last year alone. Thanks to Obamacare, their years of working, saving, and planning for retirement are being washed away.

A primary reason for these spikes is that Obamacare forces every Floridian to pay for services many of us never need. A 75-year-old grandmother, for instance, is required to pay for maternity care. So are men of all ages. This and other mandates lead to expensive one-size-fits-all plans dictated by Washington bureaucrats rather than patient needs.

But here’s the worst part. We still haven’t weathered the storm — and it’s possible we never will.

A recent study by the Medical Industry Leadership Institute estimates that Obamacare will continue to increase health care costs for the foreseeable future. The waves will be highest in 2017, when the federal government stops subsidizing insurance companies with taxpayer money.

Once that happens, the “cheap” bronze plans available on the Florida exchange could jump by a staggering 103 percent for families and by 205 percent for individuals. By the end of the decade, individuals could be forking over $4,300 a year in premiums. For families, the cheap plans could cost $13,500.

It’s important to remember that premiums are only one of many ways that Obamacare saddles Floridians with higher costs. We’re also paying higher deductibles, co-pays, and coinsurance, all of which are storms of their own.

At $5,081 per year, deductibles for the average Obamacare plan are 40 percent higher than they were before the law. Even after you reach that threshold, many plans now require you to pay 20 percent of any additional costs, until you reach the $6,350 limit for individuals or the $12,700 limit for families. The IRS has also announced it will raise both of these caps on an annual basis, starting next year.

These are out-of-pocket costs — subsidies won’t affect them. They could double or even triple annual health care costs for many Florida families, further straining budgets that are already near the breaking point.

Washington promised that this would never happen. We were told that Obamacare would keep health care affordable. We were even told that it would lower the average family’s premiums by up to $2,500 a year. Now we’re looking at double-digit premium increases for the second year in a row, with triple-digit increases looming in the near future.

Florida families can’t afford for this man-made hurricane to get any worse.

Chris Hudson is the Florida state director for Americans for Prosperity.

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