ObamaCare uncertainty driving premium hikes


ObamaCare uncertainty driving premium hikes

Uncertainty among insurers about how the Trump administration will handle the Affordable Care Act could translate into double-digit premium increases for 2018.

Insurers are beginning to file rate requests with state insurance regulators, and some states could see premium increases of 50 percent or more.

Insurers are worried about how President Trump’s plans for -ObamaCare — particularly whether the requirement for individuals to buy insurance will remain and whether insurer subsidies for covering low-income enrollees will continue.

“It’s a significant factor in pricing this year,” said Cynthia Cox, a health insurance expert with the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“I think it’s fair to say these rates are higher than we would have expected to see in the absence of uncertainty.”

Insurers also blamed rate increases on an unbalanced risk pool — which means there are too many sick, expensive patients and not enough healthy ones — higher claims for medical care and drugs, and the reinstatement of an -ObamaCare tax on health insurers.

Maryland’s largest health insurer, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, is proposing an average rate increase of more than 50 percent.

In a statement, CareFirst said the “lack of clarity” about whether the individual mandate would be enforced played a “significant role” in its proposed rate increases.

“Failure to enforce the Individual Mandate makes it far more likely that healthier, younger individuals will drop coverage and drive up the cost for everyone else,” CareFirst said in a statement.

The company is also requesting premium increases of 35 percent in Virginia and 29 percent in Washington, D.C.

Another Maryland insurer, Evergreen Health, is requesting rate increases of 27 percent, blaming uncertainty about -the ObamaCare insurer payments and the enforcement of the individual mandate as the “primary driver.”

In Connecticut, Anthem is requesting an average premium increase of 34 percent for plans on the -ObamaCare exchanges. The state’s other exchange insurer, CTCare, is requesting a 15 percent increase.

Rate requests must be reviewed and approved by state regulators and can often change.

Connecticut and Maryland both have earlier filing deadlines than most other states, which align more closely with the federal deadline of June.

Still, these states have been a good indicator of how insurers in other states will set their premiums, Cox said.

Because -ObamaCare subsidies are designed to increase as premiums go up, the people most affected by rate hikes would be those with higher incomes getting insurance through the exchanges and people getting insurance in the individual market.

It is difficult for insurers to price plans when they don’t know what will happen to -ObamaCare next year.

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