A Wisconsin insurance commissioner told lawmakers on Thursday that the state was better off before it implemented the Affordable Care Act and that the law did significant harm to the state's health insurance market.
J.P. Wieske, deputy insurance commissioner for Wisconsin's Office of the Commissioner of Insurance, said the state had a well-functioning market prior to the Affordable Care Act.
Recent Stories in Issues
Wieske said that while Wisconsin was not the least expensive market in the country before Obamacare was implemented, it often ranked in the lowest third of states in terms of cost. In addition, Wisconsin offered consumer protections, guaranteed access for the most vulnerable, and had state authority to enforce the laws. The state also offered high-risk pools and subsidies for families with incomes up to $34,000 per year.
"While the Wisconsin market has been healthier than most, the ACA has caused significant harm," Wieske said, adding that Obamacare's regulations have impacted negatively rates and choices for consumers. "The ACA has changed the Wisconsin health insurance market. Consumers have fewer choices. Rates have increased significantly."
Wieske also noted that "a number of our insurers have seen a significant loss in capital. Insurers have left the individual market, and those that remain have reduced services areas and plan offerings."
As a result, 37,000 Wisconsin residents will have to look for new insurance plans in 2017 due to insurers dropping out of the individual marketplace.
Market rates have increased moderately in Wisconsin, rising by 3.8 percent in 2015 and 8.3 percent in 2016. In 2017, rates on the federal exchange are expected to increase by 16 percent.
Wieske said that Obamacare's centralized approach to health care has not made the markets better or improved consumer experience. Rather, the Affordable Care Act has caused the near-collapse of state insurance markets.
The commissioner's comments contradict remarks by Democrats, who often say that health insurance markets were worse off before Obamacare was implemented.
"Far too often before the Affordable Care Act came into effect, health insurance did not provide peace of mind—it provided anxiety, panic, and dread," the Obama administration stated. "[As] more and more Americans are enrolling and transitioning into new plans, it is important to remember we are moving away from a very broken system and what life was for millions of Americans before the ACA."