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Health secretary: ACA 'benchmark' plan premiums to drop 2 percent

By Daniel Uria
Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Thursday that premiums for "benchmark" plans under the Affordable Care Act will decline by 2 percent. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/a5a90bd6de33683bff0e24d53a915c6e/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Thursday that premiums for "benchmark" plans under the Affordable Care Act will decline by 2 percent. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 27 (UPI) -- Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Thursday that the cost of "benchmark" healthcare plans under the Affordable Care Act will fall 2 percent next year.

Azar announced insurers proposed to lower premiums for benchmark or "silver" ACA health insurance plans by 2 percent nationally and that the number of federal exchange insurers will grow for the first time since 2015.

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He credited President Donald Trump for the improvements in the insurance marketplace under the system also often referred to as Obamacare after former President Barrack Obama.

"It turns out, when you have a president who's willing to take decisive action, who understands business, who's willing to work with the private sector, you can find a way to help American patients, even within a failed system like the ACA," Azar said. "The president who is supposedly trying to sabotage the Affordable Care Act has proven better at managing it than the president who wrote the law."

RELATED Four cities sue Trump for 'sabotage' of Affordable Care Act

Larry Levitt, senior vice president of Kaiser Family Foundation responded to Azar's announcement, saying ACA premiums would've already been declining if insurance companies weren't dealing with an unstable environment.

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"ACA premiums are stable for 2019 because they went up so much this year due to an uncertain environment and regulatory actions by the Trump administration," he wrote on Twitter. "Premiums would be going down a lot if not for repeal of the individual mandate penalty and expansion of short-term plans."

Leslie Dach, chair of Protect Our Care, said Azar's comments on Thursday made him "Donald's Trump latest snake oil salesman."

RELATED HHS unveils new short-term health plans as ACA alternative

"The simple fact is that Trump and Azar's policies will kick people off their health insurance, allow insurance companies to sell junk insurance policies that discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions, charge women and older people higher premiums and kick people off when they get sick," Dach said. "What's worse, the GOP relentless war on healthcare has raised healthcare costs for millions while giving billions in tax breaks to drug and insurance companies."

RELATED Trump admin cuts funding to program that aids ACA enrollment

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