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Health & Spirit

People who buy their own health insurance face even higher costs under Trump

Noam N. Levey, Tribune Washington Bureau on

Published in Health & Fitness

WASHINGTON -- Jim Hansen and his wife considered themselves fortunate when they retired five years ago.

The Denver couple, both electrical engineers, were healthy. They'd socked away an ample nest egg. And they found health insurance that, if not cheap, seemed reasonable for two people in their late 50s.

Then, the math started to change. Since 2015, the couple's annual premiums have more than tripled, and may hit nearly $18,000 next year.

"It just doesn't make sense," said Hansen, who has had to recalculate his retirement finances.

The Affordable Care Act made lifesaving protections available to millions, many for the first time. But the transformation of the nation's insurance markets has been a bumpy ride, particularly for one group -- people like Hansen who get health insurance on their own, rather than through a job, but whose income is too high to qualify for government aid.

Now, these same consumers, who Republicans say are victims of the current law, stand to see insurance bills soar even higher unless Congress acts quickly to stabilize insurance markets that have been weakened by the Trump administration.

Hansen's insurer, Cigna, plans to increase premiums for individual insurance plans in Colorado by an average of 31 percent for 2018 -- one of many double-digit increases slated to hit consumers around the country next year.

"Many of these people are just normal, middle-class folks," said former Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger. "And they're just not going to be able to afford coverage."

Praeger, a Republican, is among a bipartisan chorus of state regulators, governors and health insurance officials urging Congress to take a set of relatively simple steps to stabilize markets and help consumers like Hansen.

A group of Republican and Democratic senators is now racing to put together legislation.

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