Highlight on Arizona: Premiums skyrocketing for Arizonans, Republican governor committed to keeping health protections in place

When it comes to premium increases for marketplace plans, Arizona is one of the hardest-hit states. For the 2017 plan year, reports show that premiums across the country will increase by an average of 22 percent. In Arizona, that number is 116 percent.

According to HHS, Arizona had the lowest rates of the states in 2016. This honor came back to bite marketplace consumers, who will be forced to pay around $422 per month for even the lowest cost plans in 2017. That will come as a blow to the wallet, considering the average of $196 for 2016.

Dr. Robert Tenchsel, CEO of the Yuma Regional Medical Center, admitted that this may cause some consumers to choose to opt out of coverage, because paying the penalty will be cheaper than their premium. Selections for coverage are limited, and consumers must either choose between marketplace plans or Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona.

Since the election, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey (R) has drawn attention to the necessity of enacting  new health insurance protections if the new administration follows through with President-elect Trump’s campaign promises to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) (P.L. 111-148). Ducey agreed that the ACA “isn’t working…that it’s badly broken and in need of improvement,” but remains committed to keeping access to affordable care available for his state’s citizens.

Ducey pointed to certain parts of the law that need to be preserved, such as protections for those with pre-existing conditions, prohibitions against lifetime caps, and federal funding for expanded Medicaid programs. Arizona chose to expand Medicaid and accept federal assistance in covering the 400,000 newly eligible. Arizona also restored coverage for single adults living below the federal poverty level, which had been cut years before due to the necessity of finding budget savings. The state received some federal money for this measure, and the rest is funded by assessments on hospitals (which is still in dispute in the state court system).

If the ACA is repealed and the federal funding for Medicaid expansion is revoked, the state will either have to take away health coverage for this part of the population, or find more money in the already stretched state budget. Although during his campaign Ducey stated that the ACA’s Medicaid provisions were an “unacceptable expansion of government,” he said he would veto any attempt by the state legislature to repeal the expanded program now that so many citizens depend on it for coverage.