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Early Health Insurance Premium Proposals Indicate Hikes for 2019

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By Thomas Beaton

June 04, 2018 – Significant increases to health insurance premiums are on the horizon for beneficiaries in multiple states as payers begin to share their 2019 rate plans.  

A challenging regulatory landscape, complicated by policy changes that have altered the Affordable Care Act, have led payers to request significant premium increases for many of their plan offerings.

As a result of federal actions in the health insurance marketplace, payers are anticipating decreasing enrollment and shifts in the beneficiary risk pool, which are likely to continue to push premiums upward in 2019 and beyond.

Virginia likely to see double-digit premium increases for individual plans

Private payers in Virginia offering individual health plan products are requesting premium increases between 8 and 69 percent.

Cigna, the largest individual health plan provider with more than 100,000 beneficiaries, is requesting an average increase of 15 percent.

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CareFirst BlueChoice requested an average premium increase of 26.6 percent, and Kaiser Foundation Health Plan requested a 32.1 percent increase.

Group Hospitalization and Medical Services Inc., a subsidiary of CareFirst, requested an average rate increase of 64.3 percent. In one instance, the payer requested premium increases of 69.7 percent.

In contrast, small group health plan prices are likely to remain stable or even shrink.

CareFirst BlueChoice is decreasing small group health plan premiums by an average of 1.34 percent. Group Hospitalization and Medical Services Inc. will increase small group premiums by 6.46 percent, but Kaiser Foundation Health Plan will not increase its small group plan premiums at all.

Some individual plan premium rates in Maryland will almost double

Payers in the state of Maryland have requested premium increases between 24 and 98 percent for individual health plans, citing expected growth in their medical loss ratios for 2019.

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CareFirst, which requested a maximum premium increase of 98.3 percent, submitted actuarial documents that explain healthcare costs and a fragmented market will require drastic premium increases.

Kaiser Foundation individual health plans requested increases of 48 percent, and CareFirst BlueChoice plans requested an increase of 24 percent.

Small group market health plans remained more stable than individual market products, with payers anticipating increases between 6 and 25 percent.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan expressed concern with the rate hikes and emphasized a need to expedite the state’s reinsurance program in order to stabilize premium growth.

“Since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, rates on the individual market in Maryland have risen by an outrageous and unsustainable 166 percent, and are set to increase by over 200 percent if we do not take action. I am proud that we joined with the Maryland General Assembly to pass common sense, bipartisan legislation to prevent these massive rate hikes,” Hogan said.

Oregon sees more modest increases, but costs are still on the rise

READ MORE: Pros and Cons of High Cost Sharing for Employer Health Plans

Payers offering individual health plans in Oregon requested average rate hikes between 5 and 16 percent, while small group plan increases range between 0 and 9.4 percent, according to early filings.

Health Net Health Plan of Oregon requested an average rate increase of 16.4 percent for 40-year-old Silver Plan holders.

Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Northwest proposed increases of 14.3 percent and Providence Health Plan requested increases of 13.6 percent.

Conversely, PacificSource Health Plans decreased their proposed rates for individual plans by 9.6 percent.

Payers only requested minimal premium increases for small group health plans, since expected costs held steady or decreased slightly.

Health Net requested a 4 percent decrease in small group plan premiums, Moda Health Plan requested a 1.8 percent decrease, and Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon requested a 1.2 percent decrease.

Four out of the nine payers offering small group plans in the state requested premium increases between 0 and 1.8 percent.

Consumers and stakeholders can comment on the rate changes here until July 9, 2018.

Most Rhode Island payers request premium increases of around 10 percent for 2019

Rhode Island’s payers, such as BlueCross BlueShield, UnitedHealthcare, and Tufts Health Plan, proposed comparatively small premium increases for small and large group markets, according to the state’s Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner (OHIC).

The state’s two individual health plan providers, BlueCross BlueShield and Neighborhood Health Plan, requested premium increases of 10.7 percent and 8.7 percent, respectively.

Small group plans are also requesting similar increases.  BlueCross BlueShield of Rhode Island proposed rate increases of 10.6 percent, and UnitedHealthcare requested a 9.1 percent increase in premiums.  Tufts Health plan proposed increases of 10.3 percent for its HMO plans and 10.2 percent for PPO beneficiaries,

Some payers requested slight decreases for specific small group health plan products. Neighborhood Plan of Rhode Island a 0.15 percent decrease in premiums for small group plans. UnitedHealthcare also requested a 0.6 percent decrease in premium rates.

By Rhode Island law, premium rate requests over 10 percent are subject to an additional review.

“OHIC will also review each health insurer’s contracts to ensure that plans sold in Rhode Island meet all benefit, access, and member cost sharing standards required by state and the federal law,” the agency said. “OHIC’s final decision to approve, modify, or reject the proposed rates is expected in August.”

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