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Oregon Health Care Marketplace Stabilizing, Despite 'Death Spiral' Claims


Oregon has released its final rates for next year’s individual health insurance market. Seven companies are participating.

While President Donald Trump has repeatedly said Obamacare is in a “death spiral,” Oregon officials say its health insurance marketplace is stable here.

Jake Sunderland with the Department of Consumer Services said rate changes in 2018 range from a 14 percent increase to a 1 percent decrease.

“It’s not a death spiral that’s for sure,” he said. 

Sunderland said there are “a lot of signs” the market is stabilizing in Oregon.

“The majority of the increases that we’re seeing this year are not because of prior under pricing, but because of medical inflation,” he said.

There are counties across the nation where no insurance companies are offering individual health insurance. But in Oregon, every county has at least one business offering a plan.

In Portland, the premium for a silver standard plan for a 40-year-old man is between $350 and $450 a month.

The average financial assistance for Oregonians who qualified for assistance through HealthCare.gov was  $346 per month.

The CEO of Moda Health Robert Gootee agrees the state’s individual marketplace is relatively stable.

But he’s worried about the fight over “cost sharing reduction,” or CSR, payments. They’re federal payments that help low-income people secure insurance by waiving their deductibles and copays.

Speaking on OPB’s “Think Out Loud” on Thursday, Gootee said the payments were challenged by Republicans and the case remains in court.

“That’s what the Obama administration was doing — pursuing the appeal,” Gootee said. “If the Trump administration dropped that appeal, then the law of the land would be that these CSR payments would go away. And that would create a lot of disruption in the market.”

He added he doesn’t think it’s likely the Trump administration would drop the appeal, but added uncertainty in the market is not helpful.

The CSR payments amount to more than $10 billion a year and Gootee said cutting them might result in premium increases of 20 percent.

In May, the Trump administration filed a motion to delay a court hearing on the case. But experts are unsure of his direction in the future.

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