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36 percent average jump for Wisconsin insurance buyers

Caduceus, file photo. (Photo courtesy MGN Online)

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Average health insurance premiums in Wisconsin will jump 36 percent for people buying coverage through the federally run exchange, state insurance officials announced Thursday.

The Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance also said about 75,000 people will have to find new providers because three health care companies -- Anthem, Molina and Health Tradition -- are leaving the exchange. The figures were released ahead of the enrollment period that begins Nov. 1.

Deputy Commissioner of Insurance J.P. Wieske attributed the rate increases to decreased competition and the assumption that the White House and Congress won't pay "cost sharing" subsidies that help cover deductibles and copayments for low-income consumers.

About 215,000 people are in the individual market. Last year, 233,000 were signed up in the individual market. Wieske said those losing coverage have been notified by the insurers.

"The market under this regulatory scheme of Obamacare is just not sustainable," he said.

The commissioner's office is urging those losing their insurance provider to shop around for a new one to avoid having the government choose one for them.

"Nobody wants the federal government to substitute its judgement for the judgement of the consumer. Therefore, we strongly encourage these consumers to shop around and avoid a plan being chosen for them," said Ted Nickel, the state's insurance commissioner.

Some counties will see their rates more than double, according to figures from Nickel's office, which based the estimates on the cost of a standard "silver" plan for a 21-year-old. Dane County, where the capital city of Madison is located, will see rates increase by 60 percent, according to the figures. Milwaukee County's increase is expected to be nearly 60 percent, while other counties will see hikes as high as 105 percent.

"These increases are unsustainable and unacceptable," Republican Gov. Scott Walker said in a statement. "While our state remains one of the best in the nation for health insurance coverage and quality, Obamacare is disrupting health care markets in our state and across the country. If Washington, D.C. fails to deliver on its promise of repealing and replacing Obamacare, we will explore our options in seeking greater flexibility from the federal government to help lower costs for Wisconsin citizens."

Democrats, meanwhile, blamed Trump.

"President Trump has never cared about working men and women, and with these rate increases, it is clearer than ever that he is actively working to hurt them," Wisconsin U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan said in a statement. "President Trump should reverse course to guarantee that his administration will continue the payments and Congress should act to make them permanent."

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