AP FACT CHECK: Trump's undue credit for slowing health costs

What a difference a year makes. From predicting that the Affordable Care Act would "implode" and "explode," President Donald Trump is now claiming credit for modest average premium increases expected next year.

In remarks this week, Trump appeared to cite a recent analysis by Avalere Health and The Associated Press in asserting that premium costs are now "far lower" than they would have been under a Democratic president, because his administration has been managing premiums "very, very carefully." Not so. Experts told AP the stabilizing costs are mainly due to the design of subsidies baked into former President Barack Obama's health care law and growing confidence among health insurers who've learned to adapt to turbulence.

A look at Trump's statements and how they compare with the facts:

TRUMP: "The thing that I really am very happy to announce is that the rates are far lower than they would have been under the previous administration, or under a Democrat administration. We're holding the rates down. ... The remnant of Obamacare is much less expensive than people thought. They were going up, before I got here, at 118 percent, in some cases; 150 percent, 160 percent, 55 percent. We have the percentage going up at a much lower level because we're managing it very, very carefully. So we're very proud of that." — remarks Monday at a meeting of the National Council for the American Worker.

THE FACTS: He's taking undue credit for the turnaround.

The Sept. 7 analysis by Avalere and the AP found a 3.3 percent average increase in proposed or approved premiums across 47 states and Washington for 2019. After two years of double-digit increases, premiums are expected to decline in about a dozen states. The analysis also found that 19 states will see either new insurers enter their market or expand into more areas.

Experts say the main reason for the flip in the ACA's fortunes is that the premium increases of previous years allowed insurers to return to profitability. About 9 in 10 "Obamacare" customers receive subsidies that are designed to increase with the rising cost of insurance, protecting them from price jumps. Those taxpayer-backed subsidies allowed the insurers to stanch their earlier losses. At the same time, the companies are savvier about managing risks in the market.

A major factor behind last year's spike in premiums was Trump's abrupt cancellation of a separate major stream of payments to insurers. But this midterm election year the administration has refrained from roiling the markets.

Trump's claim that rates are far lower than they would have been under a Democratic administration is questionable, because Democrats have had no shortage of ideas for addressing high premiums.

And the improved outlook for the ACA is no consolation for people who need individual health insurance policies but make too much money to qualify for subsidies. They have been dropping out of the market in droves. The Trump administration is promoting lower-cost short-term policies and association health plans to help this group, but it's too early to say how those ideas will fare in the market.


Associated Press writer Hope Yen contributed to this report.


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