2017 Is Looking Like a Good Year for Health Insurers—If Republicans Don’t Ruin It

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

Michael Hiltzik points me to some new data from the Kaiser Family Foundation about Obamacare. A picture is worth a thousand words, so here’s a chart that shows how insurers are doing in the individual insurance market:

This is the result of the big increase in premiums in 2016. Claims went up only 5 percent, a little less than normal, but average premiums went up 20 percent. The result is a big increase in gross profits per customer and a big increase in overall profit margins. This is pretty much what most analysts predicted: insurers lowballed their premiums in 2013 and saw their profit margins fall over the next two years. That improved a bit in 2016, and then improved a lot in 2017 following the large premium increases.

In other words, the big premium increases of last year weren’t a sign of Obamacare failing. They were a sign that insurers had learned more about the market and needed a one-time increase to return themselves to profitability. If there’s another big premium increase this year, it won’t be because nobody is making money in the Obamacare market. It will be due to deliberate destabilization of the market by Donald Trump and congressional Republicans.

However, there’s a downside in this data: Obamacare has attracted a sicker pool of customers. Between 2011 and 2014, average hospital days increased about 1.8 percent per year. Since then, they’ve increased 4.6 percent per year. This isn’t surprising since Obamacare required insurers to cover everyone, not just the healthy, but it does indicate that insurers really are dealing with a more expensive set of customers and needed a few years to figure just how much more expensive they were going to be.

Note that all of this data is from the first quarter of 2017, and is being compared to the first quarter of previous years. Apples to apples. Obviously we’ll have to wait six months to get full-year data through 2017.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate