Insurance companies are rolling out their rate increase requests for 2017, and they are becoming available on ratereview.healthcare.gov starting today. Nebraska’s are already available and it is massive sticker shock for Blue Cross customers. BCBSNE is requesting a 34.9% average increase to premiums on individual plans and it is stated to affect 13,000 policy holders (about 25,000 people). For small group plans they requested 9.43% (generally businesses are on this). The other insurance companies in Nebraska requested increases ranging from 10.05% (United Healthcare) to 35.09% (Medica). It doesn’t tell me the starting rates, and these increases have not been approved by the state insurance commissioner yet. From looking through past filings, it appears that most of the time the requested increase is approved, with the exception of a silver plan request that was reduced from 30% to 23%. So maybe these very high rates will be reduced a little, but it appears we’re still looking at a very high increase no matter what. You can start looking for your state’s requested increases at that link above. Some of them aren’t out yet, but they should be soon.
The Federal Reinsurance program completely phases out in 2017 which is why people expect (and are seeing) such a large jump. That program was designed to help cushion the financial transition for insurance companies into the ACA, but without it the companies are shouldering all the costs themselves. It’s possible Congress will extend that program. Rates are also going up because more sick people are using the insurance, medical inflation has raised the health costs a lot, and drug costs are also skyrocketing.
The requested 34.9% is an average increase across all plans, and it may not be the final increase, but let’s do the math based on what we know.
For our family, the bronze plan for 2016 was $1102.27/mo. A 34.9% increase would make it $1486.96 for the BRONZE plan rate in 2017 (with a giant deductible).
The 2016 gold plan rate was quoted as $1683.95, so the proposed increase would make it $2271.65 for the GOLD plan rate in 2017. That is more than many house payments. More than 2-3 house payments for most people around here. I cannot imagine paying that.
I’m sorry, this is clearly unsustainable. I hope, for the sake of those on insurance, that these proposals are reduced. But it’s clear to me that we are reaching a crisis in this county. I had read that one company was going to completely eliminate all their bronze level plans in one state because those customers were paying less, using the coverage for what they needed, then dropping the policy. They were actually more expensive customers to the company than the silver and gold level customers were. For bronze plans that aren’t disappearing across the country they could have deductibles as high as $7150 per person.
Expect to hear a bit about this in the news as these kinds of increases are back breaking for many. If something isn’t fixed there could be another big round of people dropping insurance in favor of health care sharing again this fall. God bless us all.
Update: I heard recently that Blue Cross in Texas and Oklahoma was asking for 50% increases to their premiums for 2017. A company did that in New Mexico last year and the request was denied by their state insurance commissioner. The company then pulled out of that state. I wonder how the requests in OK and TX will be received. I have doubts they will be approved at that level, but maybe.