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Original published version of fact-check of Patrick Morrisey on Obamacare premiums

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, a Republican, recently took to Facebook to criticize the Affordable Care Act, the landmark law also known as Obamacare. Morrisey is seeking to overturn the law through a suit filed by a number of Republican attorneys general.

In his Jan. 2 post, Morrisey said the country must move on from the law because of "skyrocketing premiums" and "corrupt subsidies." He said he would pursue other ways to help "people with preexisting conditions."

Morrisey sought to bolster his claim by citing how much premiums have increased in West Virginia.

"We need affordable, high quality, health care choices," he wrote. "Obamacare isn’t doing that. Premiums have gone up 160 percent in West Virginia in 4 yrs — bankrupting families & destroying choice."

Just how much have premiums gone up in West Virginia in the last four years? We took a closer look. Premiums have gone up, but not by as much as Morrisey said.

Premium increases

The Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit that focuses on health policy, tracks dataon Affordable Care Act premiums by state. According to the foundation, the average benchmark premiums for West Virginia in the online insurance marketplace have risen over the past four years, from $289 in 2015 to $589 in 2019.

That’s an increase of 106 percent.

So premiums did rise over the period Morrisey mentioned, but he appears to have overstated the scale of the premium spike, possibly by transposing his digits. (We reached out to Morrisey’s office for comment, but we did not receive a response.)

Linda Blumberg, a fellow at the Urban Institute specializing in health care policy and the Affordable Care Act, agreed that Morrisey’s statement was "an overestimate."

She said that a slightly different measurement -- the change in the lowest-priced "silver" premium, a mid-range category of coverage, as calculated with this online tool -- produced a roughly similar increase. "Between 2015 and 2019, the change in the lowest priced silver offering was just under 94 percent," she said.

Blumberg added that the 2018 and 2019 premiums experienced an extra bump because Morrisey’s fellow Republicans in the Trump administration stopped paying for cost-sharing subsidies directly, meaning that insurers have had to work those costs into their premiums.

Our ruling

Morrisey said that Obamacare premiums "have gone up 160 percent in West Virginia in 4 yrs."
Premiums in West Virginia have increased substantially over the last four years, but not quite as fast as Morrisey said in his Facebook post. We rate the statement Half True.