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Virginians May See Rise in Premiums Despite Warner’s Promises

Major Virginia insurance provider proposes 8.5 percent increase on individual plans

US Senator Mark Warner, (D., Va.) / AP
• July 24, 2014 5:48 pm

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Republicans continue to slam Sen. Mark Warner (D., Va.) for what they call his misleading advocacy of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to Virginia voters, including his claim that it would lower health care costs for consumers.

Warner, who voted for the ACA—commonly known as Obamacare—in December 2009, previously said he supported reforms that would lower health premiums and not add to the federal debt.

However, premiums could rise by as much as 16.6 percent for some Virginians next year, well above the rate of inflation. Anthem HealthKeepers Inc., a subsidiary of WellPoint and one of the state’s largest insurers, is proposing an average increase of 8.5 percent on individual plans.

Virginia’s health insurers submitted their requests for 2015 premium increases on Wednesday at a meeting with the State Corporation Commission. The insurers cited older, sicker enrollees and regulations and benefits mandated by Obamacare as reasons for raising costs.

Warner is running for reelection this fall against Republican Ed Gillespie. Gillespie blasted Warner’s claims about Obamacare in a statement issued in May.

"The false claims of savings have turned into higher health care costs for thousands of Virginia families who are already feeling squeezed by a mediocre economy, rising energy prices and diminished job prospects," Gillespie said. "Virginians see more evidence every day of the wrong direction that Mark Warner, Harry Reid, and Barack Obama have taken the country over the last five years and they know that we can do better with new leadership in the Senate."

Warner outlined his principles for health care reform at a town hall on Sep. 3, 2009, in Fredericksburg, weeks before Obamacare’s passage.

"Number one, it cannot add to the federal deficit," Warner said, according to a summary of the event on his website. "Number two, we have to start driving the cost of health care down, for all Americans, all across the board. And number three, […] change the financial incentives we have in our health care system."

While premiums are set to increase next year in Virginia, the health care law will also contribute to the burgeoning national debt.

A report released by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) this month warned that subsidies offered through Obamacare will add to the country’s debt problem.

"Federal spending for Social Security and the government’s major health care programs—Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and subsidies for health insurance purchased through the exchanges created under the Affordable Care Act—would rise sharply, to a total of 14 percent of GDP by 2039, twice the 7 percent average seen over the past 40 years," the report said. "That boost in spending is expected to occur because of the aging of the population, growth in per capita spending on health care, and an expansion of federal health care programs."

The growth in health care spending will push federal debt held by the public to exceed 100 percent of GDP by 2039, "a trend that could not be sustained indefinitely," the CBO projected.

Warner’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

The senator has proposed changes to the health care law, such as an additional catastrophic plan for customers, but still says he supports it because of provisions that prevent denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions and charging women more than men.

Warner maintains a double-digit lead against Gillespie in the Senate race, according to an average of polls compiled by Real Clear Politics. However, a majority of Virginia voters have said they oppose Obamacare in previous polls.