Government defends Obamacare, saying headlines exaggerate costs

Last Updated Aug 24, 2016 3:09 PM EDT

As the nation’s largest health insurers dial back on their participation in the exchanges created under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Obama administration is fighting back after a slew of negative press.  

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) on Tuesday afternoon released an analysis that concludes that even if all premium rates were to rise by double digits next year, the vast majority of Americans who buy coverage through the Obamacare exchanges will still have affordable options.

If all rates increased 25 percent, nearly three-quarters of people who use the exchanges would still be able to purchase coverage for less than $75 a month, according to the agency. 

Under Obamacare, consumers are shielded from the impact of rate increases by tax credits that rise along with the premiums, along with their ability to shop for the best plan.

Despite projections last year of double-digit rate increases for ACA plans, the average premium rose only $4 a month for Obamacare participants with tax credits, and seven of 10 of those using the exchanges could buy 2016 coverage for less than $75 a month, and 74 percent had an option for $100 or less, the analysis maintained. 

“Headline rate increases do not reflect what consumers actually pay,” Kathryn Martin, Acting Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation at HHS, said in a statement.  

Last week, Aetna (AET) become the latest health insurer to say it would scale back its participation in Obamacare’s public​ exchanges by trimming its presence to four states for 2017, from 15 this year. 

Consumers can begin signing up for 2017 coverage Nov. 1.