Health Insurers Requesting Double-Digit Rate Increases

Published July 7, 2015

Health insurance is about to get more expensive as insurers around the country are requesting big rate increases between 20 percent to 40 percent or more because their new customers under the Affordable Care Act are sicker than expected.

For instance, Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans want rate increases averaging 23 percent in Illinois, 25 percent in North Carolina, 31 percent in Oklahoma, 36 percent in Tennessee, 51 percent in New Mexico and 54 percent in Minnesota.

And in Oregon, the state’s insurance commissioner, Laura N. Cali, just approved the 2016 rate increases for companies covering more than 220,000 people. Moda Health Plan, which has the largest enrollment in the state, received a 25 percent increase, and the second-largest plan, LifeWise, received a 33 percent increase.

Federal officials say they are determined to scale back the requests.

The New York Times quoted Jesse Ellis O’Brien, a health advocate at the Oregon State Public Interest Research Group, saying, “Rate increases will be bigger in 2016 than they have been for years and will have a profound effect on consumers here. Some may start wondering if insurance is affordable or if it’s worth the money.”

The Times also quoted Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), saying, the marketplaces have not attracted enough healthy young people. “As a result, millions of people will face Obamacare sticker shock.”

Insurers cite several reasons for the big rate increases, including higher costs associated with previously uninsured consumers (i.e., they were sicker than anticipated); the high cost of specialty drugs; and the Obama administration’s policy adopted in late 2013 that allowed some people to keep insurance that did not meet new federal standards.