Health

Senator Botches Key Obamacare Stat By 900 Percent

CREDIT: AP

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI)

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) appeared on NewsMax TV on Wednesday morning to complain about the “coercive” and “very destructive” consequences of the Affordable Care Act on Wisconsin residents.

Responding to a question about premium increases under the law, Johnson related his own experiences with voters. “I’m driving around Wisconsin, I’m talking to business owners and I’m talking to health care providers and insurance agents as well and they’re seeing that same kind of range [of premium increases for 2015], anywhere from 16 to 60 percent,” he explained. “Kind of with an average of around 30 percent here just anecdotally in Wisconsin.”

But Johnson’s anecdotes appear to be outliers at best and fabrications at worst. Actual rate filings submitted to the Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI) just last month show that the average premiums in health care plans offered through the law’s federal exchange will increase by an average of just 3 percent in 2015, with two insurers registering decreases for the coming year.

Medica Health Plans of Wisconsin will drop premiums by an average of 17 percent and Molina Healthcare of Wisconsin will decrease its premiums by an average of 11 percent.

“We priced for the first year really expecting a sicker population to enroll,” Molin senior vice president Lisa Rubino explained in an interview with the Milwaukee Business Journal. “Going into the second year, we expect the exchange to work better and a healthier population due to penalties increasing.” It will also become more competitive as two new insurance carriers, including UnitedHealthcare — the carrier with the highest market share among health insurers in Wisconsin — enter the market.

The average rate of change is “calculated by using a weighted average based on a geographic distribution of plans” and doesn’t necessarily represent the actual premium consumers will pay. But since that average is substantially lower than Johnson’s predictions and most enrollees will be shielded from the increase by federal subsidies, the charge seems particularly misleading. Multiple inquires for clarification from Johnson’s office went unanswered.

In 2014, 139,815 Wisconsin residents enrolled in the federally-run exchange, 91 percent of whom qualified for subsidies.