California ‘Obamacare’ premiums to rise 8.7 percent in 2019 | Columbus Ledger-Enquirer

Henrietta Strickland
July 22, 2018

Insurers' rates did not account for the expansion of association health plans and short-term medical plans, Lee said, because they see those types of health plans having more of an effect on 2020 rates.

Lee attributed California's smaller increases to healthy competition among plans and aggressive marketing efforts to encourage people to buy coverage, ensuring the market isn't dominated by sick people who are expensive to cover.

The rates, which are subject to review by state regulators, apply to 1.4 million people who buy coverage from Covered California, the state's insurance marketplace created under Obama's Affordable Care Act. The biggest factor driving rate increases in 2019 is the rising cost and use of healthcare services. Statewide, the 2018 rates increased on average 12.5 percent. The rate increases range from 5% to 13%, which is lower than increases requested by insurers in several other states, such as Washington, where the average rate hike requested is 19%, or NY, at 24%.

With the relatively modest size of the increase Covered California suggests that many customers can adequately mitigate the additional cost by switching to the lowest-cost plan in their tier, though as Lee suggests some may choose to drop coverage altogether.

Carriers, Lee said, are most anxious about the siren song of these cheaper but less robust plans beyond 2019. All 11 plans in the state renewed contracts with Covered California. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation report, Washington State faces an average individual market rate change of 19.08 percent while ME faces average increase of over 30 percent. In the Valley, about 93 percent qualify for the help.

Health insurance carriers also added an average of 3.5 percent to their rates after the removal of the penalty out of fear that the removal would result in a "costlier" and "less healthy" consumer pool, officials said.

San Diego County residents with Covered California policies are in for premium increases averaging 9 percent next year, the state's health insurance exchange announced Thursday. Covered California spends more than $100 million a year to encourage people to sign up.

The elimination of the penalty is expected to reduce enrollment in the individual insurance market, both through Covered California and plans bought off of the exchange.

Covered California has not looked at the potential loss of enrollment by region, Scullary said.

Overall, he said, he expects that the federal government's removal of the requirement to purchase health insurance, called the "individual mandate" by health care wonks, will cause about 160,000 of the exchange's current customers to let their policies lapse in 2019 with another 100,000 who now buy health insurance off exchange in the individual market also deciding to exit. While subsidized people will not bear the full costs, taxpayers will.

Enrollment in health plans will begin in October, but people with special qualifying life events, such as loss of employer-sponsored insurance, can enroll year-round.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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