Alex Azar. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Premiums for benchmark Affordable Care Act plans are projected to drop in 2019, the first time that has happened since the law has been implemented, HHS Secretary Alex Azar announced yesterday.

The big picture: Premiums are expected to drop 2% nationally, and the number of insurers participating on exchanges will increase for the first time since 2015, Azar added.

  • "The president who was supposedly trying to sabotage the Affordable Care Act has proven better at managing it than the president who wrote the law," Azar said.

Between the lines: The drop in premiums is primarily because insurers raised them too much last year. They did so after President Trump ended the ACA's cost-sharing reduction payments.

  • But that had less of an impact than expected, based on the way insurers responded.
  • "Perhaps ironically, the termination of cost-sharing subsidies has actually promoted stability by boosting premium subsidies, but that wasn't exactly the stated intention of the administration," Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Family Foundation told Caitlin.
  • Other actions taken under the Trump administration, like the repeal of the individual mandate and the expansion of short-term plans, have probably resulted in premiums decreasing less than they would have otherwise, Levitt added.

State reinsurance programs, which the administration has been actively supportive of, have also played a roll in premium stabilization.

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