Insurance rate hikes helped carve out victory for Trump: analyst

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 Texas, and did so comfortably. But the state saw a big increase in its average prices.

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 Texas, the price rose by an average 13 percent.

As of March 2016, nearly 84 percent of Texas exchange enrollees were receiving premium subsidies. Over 1 million people are enrolled in exchange plans this year.

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.

Ten insurers are still selling plans in the Texas exchanges this year. In most counties, however, there are one, two or three carriers offering plans.

Scott & White, Aetna, Cigna and All Savers/UnitedHealthcare exited the state’s individual market at the end of 2016.

Skelley cautioned that the announcement of a rate hike in Texas and across the country was only one possible 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," Skelley 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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