The local impact of eliminating insurance subsidies

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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Local health organizations say President Trump's decision to end federal subsidies for health insurance will cause all kinds of uncertainty for patients.

"A lot of people are going to have some pretty significant sticker shock here in the next 30 days," Dr. Ashok Rai, president and CEO of Prevea Health, said.

Rising premiums and removal of federal subsidies will affect thousands of people in Northeast Wisconsin who may now find health insurance unaffordable when the federal marketplace opens November 1.

"The subsidy support made premiums affordable. They made co-pays affordable. They made pretty much everything affordable for those in a low-income standpoint. There are those who qualify for medicaid in this state and then there are those who are low-income who don't qualify for Medicaid," Rai said.

Jim Dietsche, chief financial officer for Bellin Health Systems, added, "What we really don't know right now is, those rates are not available, so we don't know how much those rates have gone up, and we really won't know until the beginning of November."

Experts expect insurers to bail on the federal exchange's 2018 enrollment because it will be too expensive.

Rai predicts thousands of local patients will have to switch providers.

"Some will have to. Those with chronic disease, especially those with some pediatric sub-specialties such as childhood cancer or some of the other sub-specialties that have been traditionally able to get their care in Green Bay, will now have to drive over two-and-a-half hours to Milwaukee or Madison," he said.

Dietsche says people need much more certainty than they have right now.

"That creates more stability and less anxiety -- not only as an individual, but as a health care delivery system," Dietsche said. "Certainty is much better going forward, but right now it's an uncertain time."

State officials said Friday they expected federal subsidies for low-income health plans would end. They're projecting premiums for those plans will rise 36 percent next year.

The money goes to companies for lowering out-of-pocket costs like co-payments and deductibles for low- and middle-income customers.

The subsidies cost the federal government about $7 billion this year, but the Congressional Budget Office estimates eliminating the subsidies will increase the national deficit by $194 billion over ten years.

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