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Health Insurance Rates To Increase

Health care premiums for 2018 set to go up by as much as 50 percent

Several states have announced rates for health insurance premiums on the Obamacare exchanges for 2018. Topping the list is Georgia, with rates that are 57 percent higher than last year, while Florida said some premiums will be 45 percent higher .

Among the reasons for these increases is the uncertainty about the future of the Affordable Care Act. President Donald Trump has vowed to repeal and replace the health care law, which was passed under his predecessor President Barack Obama. Congress had repeatedly tried and failed to deliver on President Trump’s promise.

Insurers are raising premiums in the face of repeated threats from President Trump to stop funding so-called cost-sharing reductions, payments to insurers that cover out-of-pocket costs for some low-income consumers. Trump previously referred to these payments as “bailouts” for insurance companies and threatened to stop making the payments so as to “let Obamacare implode”.

If a new HealthCare Bill is not approved quickly, BAILOUTS for Insurance Companies and BAILOUTS for Members of Congress will end very soon!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 29, 2017

3 Republicans and 48 Democrats let the American people down. As I said from the beginning, let ObamaCare implode, then deal. Watch!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 28, 2017

“This has been the most unstable and challenged health insurance market in my tenure as a public servant,” Dave Jones, California’s health insurance commissioner, told the Los Angeles Times earlier this week . “The degree of uncertainty and instability that the Trump administration has injected into the market this year cannot be understated.”

To set premiums, insurers estimate how many people they will cover and what that will cost. With the $7 billion in Obamacare subsidies up in the air, insurance companies struggle to do the math. They worry that without the subsidies, their policies could be too expensive and fewer people would buy them. If fewer people are expected to buy insurance, insurers will need to hike their premiums.

“We’re all pricing up for it,” Dr. Martin Hickey, the chief executive of New Mexico Health Connections, told the New York Times.

If the Trump administration does not end up getting rid of the subsidies and premiums go up, some consumers could end up getting better deals. The subsidy that helps cover insurance premiums depends on income and the cost of silver plans in a person’s region. And since the price of some of those silver plans are spiking, the subsidy will be bigger this fall.

The Kaiser Family Foundation’s Larry Levitt said that extra money means consumers could shop for more than just silver plans. “ Instead you use it to buy into a bronze plan with a higher deductible or a gold plan with a lower deductible, there could be some great deals out there,” he explained.

The question is: will consumers even know about the bigger subsidies? The Trump administration slashed its Affordable Care Act outreach budget by 90 percent.

Former Healthcare.gov chief marketing officer Josh Peck is now co-founder of a new advocacy group, Get America Covered. His organization said the message doesn’t change. “The line we’ve used for the last three years has effectively stayed the same which is, most consumers can find plans for between $50 and $100,” he said.

While this may be good news for individual consumers, the potential bigger subsidies mean more tax money going to fund Obamacare.

Correction (Oct. 5, 2017): An earlier version of this story misspelled Larry Levitt’s name. The text has been corrected.

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Health Insurers Seek Double-Digit Rate Increases For 2018 Due To Rising Medical Costs, Marketplace Uncertainty

Under the American Health Care Act, states can apply for waivers to allow insurance companies to consider a person’s health status when determining premiums. (May 4, 2017) (Sign up for our free video newsletter here http://bit.ly/2n6VKPR)

Under the American Health Care Act, states can apply for waivers to allow insurance companies to consider a person’s health status when determining premiums. (May 4, 2017) (Sign up for our free video newsletter here http://bit.ly/2n6VKPR)

Health insurers in Connecticut are seeking double-digit rate increases for 2018 in response to rising medical and drug costs and uncertainty in the marketplace, the state Insurance Department said Monday.

Ten health insurers are seeking rate increases for next year averaging 15.2 percent to 33.8 percent for individual plans. The increases for premium plans range from 19 percent to 52 percent.

The proposed increases come less than a week after House Republicans narrowly passed legislation to repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s signature domestic health care program. The bill faces a rewrite and fierce opposition from minority Democrats in the Senate.

The House bill would end the health care law’s fines on people who don’t buy policies and erase its taxes on health industry businesses and higher earners. It would dilute consumer-friendly insurance coverage requirements, like prohibiting higher premiums for customers with pre-existing medical conditions and watering down the subsidies that help consumers afford health insurance.

For small group insurance – employers with 50 or fewer workers – average rate requests are up 3.6 percent to 31.6 percent.

The increases would affect 270,000 insured customers, the agency said.

Insurance Commissioner Katharine L. Wade said the proposed increases are due to increased medical and prescription drug costs, greater use of insurance and “uncertainty in the marketplace.”

Anthem Health Plans, which is asking for an average 33.8 percent increase for individuals insured, cited the “dynamics and volatility” in products offered as part of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

Its rate request reflects increases in the cost of delivering medical services and pharmacy expenses and overall increases in the use of health care services by members in ACA plans, it said.

The rates being requested assume the funding of cost-sharing reductions (CSRs) – discounts that reduce what’s paid for deductibles, co-payments, and coinsurance, Anthem said.

“However, the future funding of CSRs remains uncertain,” it said.

Anthem warned of additional rate increase requests, elimination of certain insurance products or exiting markets “if we do not have certainty that CSRs will be funded for 2018 by early June.”

Health insurance markets have been roiled by the exit of major health insurers posting financial losses and a constant political debate that leaves in doubt the direction of federal and state health policy and funding.

Other factors, according to state insurance officials, include the threat of a deteriorating risk pool with healthier people quitting, leaving behind mostly sicker customers. In addition, a moratorium ends next year on a federal health insurance tax that accounts for 2 percent to 3 percent of premiums.

The Insurance Department has scheduled a public hearing June 14 to review the request.

Connecticut’s two U.S. senators, both Democrats, blamed President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans for uncertainty leading to the rate increase requests.

Sen. Chris Murphy said Trump “won’t commit to keeping the Affordable Care Act operating for more than one month at a time” and Sen. Richard Blumenthal said “reckless efforts by the GOP to dismantle the Affordable Care Act are costing consumers.”

State Sen. Kevin Kelly, the Republican co-chairman of the legislature’s insurance and real estate committee, said Obamacare is in effect and is responsible for the proposed increases. The potential for higher rates in 2018 would follow a double-digit increase last year, he said.

“I wish our representatives would solve problems in Washington rather than looking for headlines,” he said.

Kelly said he’s “saddened, but not surprised” at the proposed increases. “This is the effect of the failures of the ACA,” he said.

Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini has been critical of Obamacare. He said in February it’s in a “death spiral” and has repeatedly cited its deteriorating risk pool as a reason the Hartford insurer is leaving ACA markets.

Aetna, which expects to lose more than $200 million on its ACA exchange business this year, announced last week it will drop individual plans in Virginia next year. It said last month it will not sell individual plans eligible for Affordable Care Act subsidies in Iowa in 2018.

The ownership of the Hartford Regional Market is being transferred from the state Department of Agriculture to the Capital Region Development Authority. CRDA would oversee any future redevelopment. The market has long been seen as ripe for growth but plans to upgrade the market have languished. The transfer of ownership has caused consternation at the market among vendors who see their future there as uncertain.

The ownership of the Hartford Regional Market is being transferred from the state Department of Agriculture to the Capital Region Development Authority. CRDA would oversee any future redevelopment. The market has long been seen as ripe for growth but plans to upgrade the market have languished. The transfer of ownership has caused consternation at the market among vendors who see their future there as uncertain.

The ownership of the Hartford Regional Market is being transferred from the state Department of Agriculture to the Capital Region Development Authority. CRDA would oversee any future redevelopment. The market has long been seen as ripe for growth but plans to upgrade the market have languished. The transfer of ownership has caused consternation at the market among vendors who see their future there as uncertain.

The ownership of the Hartford Regional Market is being transferred from the state Department of Agriculture to the Capital Region Development Authority. CRDA would oversee any future redevelopment. The market has long been seen as ripe for growth but plans to upgrade the market have languished. The transfer of ownership has caused consternation at the market among vendors who see their future there as uncertain.

LimeBikes were delivered to Hartford Wednesday morning, officially kicking off the city’s first bike share program.

LimeBikes were delivered to Hartford Wednesday morning, officially kicking off the city’s first bike share program.

Megan Ahern, business analyst for Nutmeg State Financial Credit Union, demonstrates the computerized check-in kiosk for driver’s license renewals to be performed in the credit union’s new Milford branch office, starting Thursday, under a contract with the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

Megan Ahern, business analyst for Nutmeg State Financial Credit Union, demonstrates the computerized check-in kiosk for driver’s license renewals to be performed in the credit union’s new Milford branch office, starting Thursday, under a contract with the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

Executive chef and co-owner Raymond Zheng creates a poke bowl at Kaliubon Ramen in Wethersfield. Story here.

Executive chef and co-owner Raymond Zheng creates a poke bowl at Kaliubon Ramen in Wethersfield. Story here.

Hear the screams as riders test Six Flags’ new attraction, the Quinn Spinsanity, a pendulum gondola ride named after The Joker’s partner-in-crime that spins 40 riders at a time at speeds as high as 70 mph and 15 stories high. Story here.

Hear the screams as riders test Six Flags’ new attraction, the Quinn Spinsanity, a pendulum gondola ride named after The Joker’s partner-in-crime that spins 40 riders at a time at speeds as high as 70 mph and 15 stories high. Story here.

Do Increases in Health Insurance Premiums Spell Doom for Obamacare? No, and Here’s Why.

Plans that were underpriced will cost more next year, but that doesn’t mean the Affordable Care Act is backfiring

It’s pretty clear at this point that premiums for health insurance plans sold on Obamacare marketplaces are going up in 2017 more than they have in previous years—an average of 25 percent—the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said in a report today. That’s more than last year when premiums went up an average of 7.5 percent.

Not only that, but over the last month, some major national insurers, notably UnitedHealthcare and Aetna, announced that they were pulling out of the marketplaces in some states. They complained they’re losing money on their marketplace business, partly because it has attracted older and sicker members than anticipated. And more than half of the 23 nonprofit state insurance co-ops set up as an alternative to commercial plans have been shut down because they’re no longer financially viable.

The upshot is that shoppers who sign up at marketplaces during open enrollment season (this year it runs from Nov. 1 through Jan. 31) are going to find higher prices on a lot of plans, and, in many states, fewer health insurance companies offering those plans. A preliminary analysis by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation found that in 2017, residents of 62 percent of the nation’s counties will have a choice of only one or two insurance carriers. Last year, only 32 percent of counties had so few choices.

Still, regulators could be doing a better job of pushing back against rate increases. “Health plans claim they play this wonderful role in negotiating price aggressively with providers and innovating new techniques for holding down healthcare costs,” says Lynn Quincy, director of the Healthcare Value Hub for Consumers Union. “But when it comes to premium increases, they seem unable to do these things. We should be asking them why they aren’t.” In some cases that means changing state insurance laws to give regulators more power to scale back rate increases.

The bottom line is that the law has survived many attempts at repeal, has extended health coverage to more than 20 million previously uninsured Americans, and in the process has driven the number of Americans without health coverage to an all-time low of about 9 percent. Its subsidy and marketplace structures remain intact.

Unfinished Success

Does that mean health reform is doomed? No. Here are some critical things to understand:

A lot of what’s happening is called capitalism, in which some companies win and some lose. “In California, of the top three carriers, Blue Shield and Anthem may have underpriced in the beginning and are now coming in with high increase requests,” says Betsy Imholz, Special Projects Director for Consumers Union, the policy and mobilization arm of Consumer Reports. “Kaiser did the opposite. It overpriced in the beginning, then dropped way down and now looks like a very good deal.” And some companies, like Aetna and UnitedHealthcare, made the business decision to exit the marketplaces rather than rack up losses or turn off customers with higher premiums.

Meanwhile, other companies are doing just fine. “Companies like Centene and Molina, which were previously in the business of running Medicaid managed care plans, targeted the previously uninsured,” says Kevin Lucia, research professor at Georgetown University’s Center on Health Insurance Reforms. “They price right, are doing okay, and are in it for the long haul.” Centene offers marketplace plans in 13 states under its Ambetter brand, and Molina is in 11 states.

What was your experience buying Obamacare health insurance?

Tell us about it in the comments section below.

Protection From Price Hikes

For consumers the most important thing to know is that about 85 percent of people buying on the marketplace are insulated almost entirely from these rate increases because they get a tax credit to offset the cost of their insurance premium. The tax credit is based on a formula that takes into account total income plus the cost of a benchmark Silver plan. The credit guarantees that consumers who buy that benchmark plan won’t pay more than a specified percentage of their income for it. “That tax credit will absorb almost all of the rate increase,” says Karen Pollitz, senior fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “But with rate changes and competition, the benchmark plan may be from a different insurer than it was this year. If that happens, in order to take full advantage of your subsidy you may have to change plans.”

People who aren’t eligible for subsidies may face daunting premium increases in some states and don’t really have good choices. They should shop around in hopes of finding a better deal, Pollitz says, but should be aware that lower premiums may come with higher deductibles or smaller provider networks.

There are things you can do to get ready for open enrollment if you buy your coverage through a marketplace.

• Pay attention to any notices you get from your health plan over the next month. If your insurer is exiting the marketplace, it’s supposed to tell you, Pollitz notes. It’s also supposed to tell you about any important changes in your plan, such as a premium increase or a shrinking provider network.

• If you have met all or most of your deductible for the year, schedule elective visits and procedures before Jan. 1, when the deductible resets.

• Make a rough budget for your healthcare needs for 2017. What prescriptions do you take regularly? How many doctor visits do you tend to make in a year? Are there any big medical events coming up, such as the birth of a child or a joint replacement? You can’t predict emergencies, of course, but knowing your baseline health needs will help you pick a plan and take full advantage of the cost calculators that are cropping up on insurer and marketplace sites.

In the longer run, premiums will continue to rise—for both marketplace plans and the employer plans that insure the vast majority of working-age Americans and their families—unless we get “a lot more aggressive about bringing down the underlying cost of healthcare,” Quincy says. You can learn more about Consumers Union’s efforts to understand and control medical costs at its Healthcare Value Hub.

*Update: This story has been updated to reflect the news out today from the Department of Health and Human Services that health insurance plans sold on Obamacare marketplaces will be rising in 2017 by an average of 25 percent for the lowest-priced plan in the Silver category.

Health Insurers Seek Double-Digit Rate Increases For 2018 Due To Rising Medical Costs, Marketplace Uncertainty

Under the American Health Care Act, states can apply for waivers to allow insurance companies to consider a person’s health status when determining premiums. (May 4, 2017) (Sign up for our free video newsletter here http://bit.ly/2n6VKPR)

Under the American Health Care Act, states can apply for waivers to allow insurance companies to consider a person’s health status when determining premiums. (May 4, 2017) (Sign up for our free video newsletter here http://bit.ly/2n6VKPR)

Health insurers in Connecticut are seeking double-digit rate increases for 2018 in response to rising medical and drug costs and uncertainty in the marketplace, the state Insurance Department said Monday.

Ten health insurers are seeking rate increases for next year averaging 15.2 percent to 33.8 percent for individual plans. The increases for premium plans range from 19 percent to 52 percent.

The proposed increases come less than a week after House Republicans narrowly passed legislation to repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s signature domestic health care program. The bill faces a rewrite and fierce opposition from minority Democrats in the Senate.

The House bill would end the health care law’s fines on people who don’t buy policies and erase its taxes on health industry businesses and higher earners. It would dilute consumer-friendly insurance coverage requirements, like prohibiting higher premiums for customers with pre-existing medical conditions and watering down the subsidies that help consumers afford health insurance.

For small group insurance – employers with 50 or fewer workers – average rate requests are up 3.6 percent to 31.6 percent.

The increases would affect 270,000 insured customers, the agency said.

Insurance Commissioner Katharine L. Wade said the proposed increases are due to increased medical and prescription drug costs, greater use of insurance and “uncertainty in the marketplace.”

Anthem Health Plans, which is asking for an average 33.8 percent increase for individuals insured, cited the “dynamics and volatility” in products offered as part of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

Its rate request reflects increases in the cost of delivering medical services and pharmacy expenses and overall increases in the use of health care services by members in ACA plans, it said.

The rates being requested assume the funding of cost-sharing reductions (CSRs) – discounts that reduce what’s paid for deductibles, co-payments, and coinsurance, Anthem said.

“However, the future funding of CSRs remains uncertain,” it said.

Anthem warned of additional rate increase requests, elimination of certain insurance products or exiting markets “if we do not have certainty that CSRs will be funded for 2018 by early June.”

Health insurance markets have been roiled by the exit of major health insurers posting financial losses and a constant political debate that leaves in doubt the direction of federal and state health policy and funding.

Other factors, according to state insurance officials, include the threat of a deteriorating risk pool with healthier people quitting, leaving behind mostly sicker customers. In addition, a moratorium ends next year on a federal health insurance tax that accounts for 2 percent to 3 percent of premiums.

The Insurance Department has scheduled a public hearing June 14 to review the request.

Connecticut’s two U.S. senators, both Democrats, blamed President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans for uncertainty leading to the rate increase requests.

Sen. Chris Murphy said Trump “won’t commit to keeping the Affordable Care Act operating for more than one month at a time” and Sen. Richard Blumenthal said “reckless efforts by the GOP to dismantle the Affordable Care Act are costing consumers.”

State Sen. Kevin Kelly, the Republican co-chairman of the legislature’s insurance and real estate committee, said Obamacare is in effect and is responsible for the proposed increases. The potential for higher rates in 2018 would follow a double-digit increase last year, he said.

“I wish our representatives would solve problems in Washington rather than looking for headlines,” he said.

Kelly said he’s “saddened, but not surprised” at the proposed increases. “This is the effect of the failures of the ACA,” he said.

Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini has been critical of Obamacare. He said in February it’s in a “death spiral” and has repeatedly cited its deteriorating risk pool as a reason the Hartford insurer is leaving ACA markets.

Aetna, which expects to lose more than $200 million on its ACA exchange business this year, announced last week it will drop individual plans in Virginia next year. It said last month it will not sell individual plans eligible for Affordable Care Act subsidies in Iowa in 2018.

The ownership of the Hartford Regional Market is being transferred from the state Department of Agriculture to the Capital Region Development Authority. CRDA would oversee any future redevelopment. The market has long been seen as ripe for growth but plans to upgrade the market have languished. The transfer of ownership has caused consternation at the market among vendors who see their future there as uncertain.

The ownership of the Hartford Regional Market is being transferred from the state Department of Agriculture to the Capital Region Development Authority. CRDA would oversee any future redevelopment. The market has long been seen as ripe for growth but plans to upgrade the market have languished. The transfer of ownership has caused consternation at the market among vendors who see their future there as uncertain.

The ownership of the Hartford Regional Market is being transferred from the state Department of Agriculture to the Capital Region Development Authority. CRDA would oversee any future redevelopment. The market has long been seen as ripe for growth but plans to upgrade the market have languished. The transfer of ownership has caused consternation at the market among vendors who see their future there as uncertain.

The ownership of the Hartford Regional Market is being transferred from the state Department of Agriculture to the Capital Region Development Authority. CRDA would oversee any future redevelopment. The market has long been seen as ripe for growth but plans to upgrade the market have languished. The transfer of ownership has caused consternation at the market among vendors who see their future there as uncertain.

LimeBikes were delivered to Hartford Wednesday morning, officially kicking off the city’s first bike share program.

LimeBikes were delivered to Hartford Wednesday morning, officially kicking off the city’s first bike share program.

Megan Ahern, business analyst for Nutmeg State Financial Credit Union, demonstrates the computerized check-in kiosk for driver’s license renewals to be performed in the credit union’s new Milford branch office, starting Thursday, under a contract with the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

Megan Ahern, business analyst for Nutmeg State Financial Credit Union, demonstrates the computerized check-in kiosk for driver’s license renewals to be performed in the credit union’s new Milford branch office, starting Thursday, under a contract with the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

Executive chef and co-owner Raymond Zheng creates a poke bowl at Kaliubon Ramen in Wethersfield. Story here.

Executive chef and co-owner Raymond Zheng creates a poke bowl at Kaliubon Ramen in Wethersfield. Story here.

Hear the screams as riders test Six Flags’ new attraction, the Quinn Spinsanity, a pendulum gondola ride named after The Joker’s partner-in-crime that spins 40 riders at a time at speeds as high as 70 mph and 15 stories high. Story here.

Hear the screams as riders test Six Flags’ new attraction, the Quinn Spinsanity, a pendulum gondola ride named after The Joker’s partner-in-crime that spins 40 riders at a time at speeds as high as 70 mph and 15 stories high. Story here.

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