Pants On Fire

The Republican Party of Florida is held responsible for letting insurance premiums rise.

The Republican Party of Florida is held responsible for letting insurance premiums rise

Florida Republicans want to blame Obamacare for health insurance premium increases. PolitiFact says “Pants on Fire.”

On August 6th, Crist held a Facebook Q&A session where a voter asked him about regulating insurance premiums. He responded: “The fact that we have a law on the books under Rick Scott that says the office of insurance regulation can’t regulate insurance is astounding. We deserve better, you deserve better.” In a direct reply to Crist, the Republican Party of Florida wrote: “Wrong, Charlie. It’s Obamacare that prevents OIR from regulating insurance … a law that you think is great even though premiums will go up by double digits for Floridians.”

But PolitiFact’s Joshua Gillin rates this claim “Pants on Fire”:

The Affordable Care Act doesn’t give the federal government power to regulate insurance rates. It defers to states to regulate their premiums, following a set of criteria for state agencies.

Ironically, the Republican Party of Florida told us it was referring directly to the portion of the Affordable Care Act that says state law is to be followed unless it contradicts the federal health care law, and that’s why Obamacare makes the insurance commissioner obsolete when it comes to setting rates.

Experts we talked to said that doesn’t mean Washington can or wants to do Florida’s job. […]

The Affordable Care Act says if states can regulate premiums, they should. States only have to bring laws up to minimum Obamacare requirements. The federal government only intervenes in states that don’t have effective rate review programs — something Florida can do on its own but won’t, thanks to a 2013 law passed by the Republican-led Legislature. We rate the claim Pants on Fire.

While Florida Republicans may blame Crist and the ACA, they are ultimately responsible for not reigning in premium rates. With Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty stripped of his power, Florida premiums will rise 7.4 percent on average and by as much as 23 percent, according to new research from the PricewaterhouseCoopers Health Research Institute.

Many states with effective rate review have not seen the same increases:

  • In Connecticut, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield tried to raise premiums by 12.5 percent on average. However, the Insurance Department rejected that proposal. Now, Anthem customers will see an average premium decrease of 0.1 percent, according to The Connecticut Mirror.
  • California, which also has an effective rate review program, will only see a weighted average increase of 4.2 percent.
  • Oregon Insurance Division regulators denied a number of proposed increases from insurance companies: Moda Health’s increase was reduced and Kaiser Health Foundation’s increase was reversed to a 4.1 percent cut. Overall, PwC finds that the average Oregonian will see their premiums lowered by 2.5 percent.

This is not the first time conservatives have been on the wrong side of premium increases. In July, a wide swath of Republican elected officials cheered the D.C. Circuit Court’s decision in Halbig v. Burwell. Ted Cruz remarked: “This is a significant victory for the American people and the rule of law, but we must not rest.” If the decision stands, individuals using the federal exchange would see their rates increase by a whopping 322 percent.

BOTTOM LINE: The ACA is working, especially in states where leaders have embraced it.. The uninsured rate continues to drop and people are overwhelmingly satisfied with their health insurance. But conservative governors like Rick Scott are letting their states fall behind by blocking Medicaid expansion and passing a law taking authority away from the state, which is why Scott is on the hot seat in November.