Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma on Wednesday cited reduced Obamacare premiums and expanded choices as evidence that the Trump administration has not "sabotaged" the healthcare law, as charged by Democrats.
"For the very first time, rates have [been] going down... I think we have been successful in that area," Verma said at an event hosted by the Economist Group in D.C.
The comments are similar to recent remarks by President Trump and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. Next year, premiums for Obamacare customers are expected to fall by an average of 2 percent for mid-level plans.
Verma previewed a forthcoming report that she said will show more health insurers are entering Obamacare and that they are offering more types of health plans.
"You'll be hearing from us very shortly about that," she said. "I think the news will be good."
The report is likely to come ahead of open enrollment, the time during which people can shop for plans, which begins Nov. 1 and runs through Dec. 15.
Critics, including Democrats, have pushed back on declarations of success by the Trump administration, saying that the rates would be even lower if health officials and the president had acted differently. They have repeatedly accused officials and Republicans of working to "undermine" or "sabotage" Obamacare.
But the rate decreases are a departure from widespread predictions that insurers would leave the market and that premiums would surge as a result of undoing the individual mandate, an action that becomes effective in 2019 under the tax law Republicans passed into law late last year. The Trump administration is also allowing plans to be sold outside of Obamacare's rules mandating certain types of medical coverage.
One of the reasons the premiums are tempered for 2019 is that insurers overshot their rate proposals when they applied to sell plans for this year, meaning that they lower them for the following year to be more in line with what their costs will be. A small number of states that expected higher increases also passed a reinsurance program that funnels government funding to insurers and allows them to reduce premiums.
For millions of people who don't receive government help to pay for coverage, the plans are considered out of reach even with small decreases in premiums. How much customers ultimately pay for coverage through their Obamacare plans will vary based on whether they smoke, how old they are, where they live, and what their income is.