Sharp hikes in insurance premiums likely helped Trump win election, analyst says

Reports of sharp rises in the cost of health insurance premiums through the exchanges likely helped President Donald Trump defeat Hillary Clinton in key states in November’s presidential election, according to one political analyst.

Trump was always expected to win South Carolina and did so comfortably. But the state saw a big increase in its average prices, and all but one insurer has now exited the state’s exchange.

Analysts across the country are digging into the data to try and identify the main reasons for Trump’s victory in November. More analysis needs to be done as more data rolls in, Geoffrey Skelley, a political analyst at the University of Virginia, told Patient Daily last week.

Skelley and a team at the University of Virginia are seeing patterns, including one that shows Trump appears to have performed better in states where health care premium hikes were the greatest.

Across the country, the benchmark average plan — the second-lowest priced silver plan — rose just under 25 percent from 2016 to 2017. In South Carolina, the price rose by 29 percent.

The rate hikes only make up part of the reason for the victory, but given they were announced just before the election, it likely made a difference, Skelley said.

More than 200,000 people have enrolled through the South Carolina exchange for 2017. Ninety percent of enrollees received premium subsidies in 2016. Those subsidies will be substantially larger this year.

UnitedHealthcare exited the individual market in 2016 in South Carolina and across the country. Coventry (Aetna) also offered plans in the South Carolina exchange in 2016 but announced in August it was exiting. In October, it was announced BlueChoice, a subsidiary of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Carolina, would no longer offer plans in the exchange in 2017.

The only carrier now offering plans on the exchange is Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Carolina.

Skelley cautioned that the announcement of a rate hike in South Carolina and across the country was only one reason for Trump’s victory.

“In the last few weeks, petty much all the news was bad for Hillary Clinton, roll that up with the Comey letter and the leaks from Wikileaks,” he said.

In the final week of the election campaign FBI Director James Comey sent a letter to Congress stating that the bureau was checking further emails that may be relevant to the Clinton email investigation.

In addition, Skelley said Trump held back in those last weeks, largely staying off Twitter and holding campaign events without any major distractions.

“If you look at the data, late deciders went toward Trump," he said. "You cannot separate out all the issues, but I would say the rate hike played into that late campaign negativity and might have helped the win. The rate hike news in the final couple of weeks played a role, and reminded Republican-leaning voters that they did not like the status quo, even if they had concerns and skepticism. Overall, the negative news for the Democrats and for Hillary Clinton probably helped bring Republican-leaning voters back into the fold for Trump.”

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