Daily Rise: Local governments struggle to afford health insurance since Affordable Care Act

Affordable Care Act Impact: Who should pay higher health care premiums for government employees?

Patients across the country are suffering from the massive and endless series of health insurance rate hikes since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

If you obtain health insurance on the open marketplace, there’s no question of “who pays” for these never-ending health insurance rate hikes. You – the patient. But, that question of “who pays” isn’t so simple when it comes to higher health care premiums for government institutions.

More and more local government entities are finding it difficult to afford the higher government health care premiums brought about since the Affordable Care Act. But, who should pay the insurance rate hikes?

Massachusetts’ Moratorium on Retiree Premium Hikes

As the Lowell Sun reports, Massachusetts has become ground zero for this “state-vs.-local battle” over higher health care premiums. It has manifest through a veto fight between the State Legislature and Governor Charlie Baker. 

“The Legislature voted to extend the moratorium on increasing insurance rates for municipal retirees, meaning some cities and towns will have to pay more for health insurance,” according to the Lowell Sun. “Gov. Charlie Baker vetoed the legislation, but the House and Senate overrode his veto, restoring the moratorium for two more years.”

There aren’t easy solutions for middle class families that are hit with higher health insurance premiums. The same applies to government institutions. Should retirees – many on fixed incomes– pay the higher cost of government health care premiums? Should states step in and backstop local governments? Or, should local governments be left to find more money as they pick up the tab?

More Health Care Premiums Hikes for County Employees Since Affordable Care Act

Pity the poor active workers in Pittsylvania County.

The Danville Register & Bee reports that county employees that once paid nothing out-of-pocket towards their monthly health care premiums could now be hit with a $1,262 bill — every month.

“Previously, Pittsylvania County employees who had the employee-only Keycare 30 plan did not have to pay anything for a monthly premium, thanks to the county’s monthly contribution of $511.51 for each employee’s health insurance. This year, due to a 15 percent increase in the cost of the county’s health insurance, the board of supervisors was unable to continue their full payment of this plan, despite increasing its monthly contribution to $541.51.”

“The employee only Keycare 30 plan will now cost employees $48.75 a month. That might not seem like a lot, but when a child is added to that plan, it goes up to $373.48. If a spouse is added instead, it goes up to $783.93. Cover both, and the full cost goes up to $1,261.85 — every month.”

Affordable Care Act Brings Insurance Rate Hikes for Kansas State Employees

State governments aren’t in a position to help local governments — because they’re dealing with health insurance rate hikes of their own. 

As we first noted last week, thousands of state government employees in Kansas will see their share of government health care premiums increase next year.

Rates for individuals and employee-and-children plans are expected to increase by 9 percent, according to the Associated Press. Those workers are fortunate compared to those enrolled in a family plan, which could go up by as much as 30 percent, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal.

But, Are We Asking the Wrong Question?

But, maybe we’re asking the wrong question. Instead of granting the premise, maybe we should be asking, “Why are health insurance premiums rising?”

The same big insurance companies that are raising rates are posting record, multi-billion-dollar profits. The same insurance companies are refusing to cover life-saving medications. The same big insurance companies are forcing patients to fail first. The same big insurance companies are blocking patients’ access to life-saving treatments.

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