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Blue Cross and Blue Shield of NC spells out how much Trump-fueled uncertainty hikes premiums

Obamacare touches just about everyone. It's not just for the millions of people who have health insurance through the Obamacare exchanges or Medicaid expansion. Under Obamacare, senior citizens pay less for Medicare coverage and for their prescription drugs. Many people receive free contraceptives, mammograms, colonoscopies and cholesterol tests. And those with pre-existing conditions are no longer turned away.

Many insurers say that the uncertainty emanating from Washington D.C. is prompting them to request even steeper hikes in premiums for 2018.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is spelling out just how much it could cost consumers.

The insurer is requesting a rate hike of nearly 23% for next year. But it said it would have only asked for an 8.8% bump if President Trump and House Republicans agreed to fund the Obamacare cost-sharing subsidies through 2018.

The subsidies, which reduce deductibles and co-pays for lower-income Americans, are the subject of a court battle left over from the Obama administration.

The House filed suit against the administration in 2014, arguing the payments to insurers were illegal because Congress never appropriated the money. A district court judge last year agreed. However, she stayed her decision and the Obama administration filed an appeal. The Trump administration has since inherited the case.

The administration and the House just asked for another three-month extension in the matter, unnerving many insurers, which are in the midst of filing rates for the coming year.

“We’re seeing the market begin to stabilize after three years of coverage,” said Brian Tajlili, director of actuarial and pricing services for Blue Cross of North Carolina. “Unfortunately, the lack of CSR (cost-sharing reductions) funding significantly increases the rates for all ACA (Affordable Care Act) customers.”

The other factors contributing to the rate increase are growing medical costs, including physician services and prescription drugs, and an Obamacare tax on insurers, the company said. The latter represents roughly 3% of the total increase.

While some other insurers are exiting Obamacare amid the turmoil, Blue Cross of North Carolina said it intends to participate in all of the state’s counties. But the “undecided future” of the law could change that.

“Our filing does not guarantee our participation in offering plans,” said Tajlili.

Insurers have started filing premium requests for 2018 with state regulators. Several carriers have asked for big double-digit hikes, citing the lack of direction in Washington D.C. over Obamacare’s future and increasing health care costs and usage.

While several carriers say their Obamacare businesses are stabilizing, others are still racking up unexpectedly big bills from their policyholders. This is prompting some to pull back or withdraw completely for 2018.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City announced Wednesday it is exiting Obamacare in 2018, possibly leaving nearly 19,000 Missouri residents without coverage option.