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Florida Blue Raising Premiums 17.6% for Exchange Policies as Obamacare Ire Spikes

| August 4, 2014

Filling up soon with sticker shock. (Jez)

Filling up soon with sticker shock. (Jez)

Florida Blue, the state’s largest health insurer, is increasing premiums by an average of 17.6 percent for its Affordable Care Act exchange plans next year, company officials say.

The nonprofit Blue Cross and Blue Shield affiliate blames higher health costs as a result of attracting older adults this year who previously lacked coverage and are using more services than expected.

Florida insurance regulators plan to release rate information for all companies next week. The exchange plans cover individuals who aren’t covered by employer-based policies. Florida Blue offers many plans.

The 40 percent of its individual policyholders who chose “narrow network” plans called BlueSelect that limit coverage to fewer doctors and hospitals will see rates rise by an average of 13 percent. Critics of the health law have predicted big rate hikes in the second year of the online marketplaces.

Florida Blue CEO Patrick Geraghty noted that premiums in the individual market have been going up for years. “In the individual market, this type of average rate increase is typical,” he told Kaiser Health News. “It’s is not aberrant.”

Next year will mark the fourth consecutive year Florida Blue has increased premiums by at least 11 percent on average for people under 65 who buy coverage on their own. Florida Blue increased rates an average of 16.5 percent in 2014, 16 percent in 2013 and 11.5 percent in 2012, the company said. Florida Blue signed up 339,000 customers through the Affordable Care Act’s federal marketplace this year— about 34 percent of the nearly 1 million who enrolled in the state, the company said.

Florida does not operate its own exchange. Nationally, 2015 rates that have been made public have varied sharply, with some insurers increasing rates, some reducing them and others keeping them stable. Avalere, a consulting firm, found in June that average premiums for a 40-year-old, non-smoker would increase by about 8 percent next year, based on an analysis of “silver” plan rates in nine states.

Changes ranged from a 1.4 percent average decrease in Oregon to a 16 percent average increase in Indiana. California officials said Thursday that more than 1.2 million consumers in the state-run insurance exchange can expect modest price increases of 4.2 percent on average next year. The Covered California marketplace is an “active purchaser” under the health law, which means it negotiated the rates with Anthem Blue Cross, Kaiser Permanente and other major insurers. The rates are also subject to review by California regulators.

About a dozen carriers will be competing in the individual health insurance market next year in Florida. Two have disclosed their rates. Humana is increasing prices an average of 14.1 percent for its HMO, while its preferred provider organizations (PPO) plan will increase 2.2 percent on average. Molina has set an 11.6 percent average rate decrease for all its plans.

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Several factors related to the health law are driving up rates for next year, Geraghty said, including a paucity of younger and healthy enrollees and a greater-than-expected surge of people seeking expensive health services. The law prohibits insurers from rejecting people with health problems or charging them higher premiums. That meant that many unhealthy people who had not been able to get coverage before were able to obtain policies in 2014.

Insurers’ premiums vary by a consumer’s age, the plan they selected and where they live. The monthly premium is only one part of costs, which also include co-pays and deductibles. Florida Blue monthly premiums this year for a 40-year-old living in Palm Beach County and buying a silver plan range from $303 to $404, according to data on healthcare.gov. That’s before subsidieswhich bring down the cost for low and middle-income buyers, are included.

Geraghty said he’s unsure if the latest round of price increases will lead people to drop coverage. “It depends on how much value they place in what they are receiving,” he said. Nearly 90 percent of Floridians who bought coverage on the exchange get a federal subsidy to lower their share of the premium.

“No one can claim in good conscience that a 10 percent rate increase or more would signal the advent of something new and unprecedented,” said Greg Mellowe, policy director of consumer group Florida CHAIN. “For years, this was standard practice in Florida.” The Republican-dominated Florida legislature last year suspended the state’s power to review health insurers’ rates to make sure they were actuarially sound. It left that job to federal officials who run the online insurance exchange that Florida uses. The federal government, though, has no authority to force insurers to lower insurance rates. Open enrollment to buy 2015 plans runs from Nov. 15 through Feb. 15.

–Phil Galewitz, Kaiser Health News, with the Miami Herald

Unfavorable Views Of Health Law Spike In July

The health law’s unpopularity among the public rose sharply in July with a surge of disapproval from people who had been agnostic about it in recent months, a poll released Friday shows. The law is as unpopular as it has been since it was enacted four years ago.

The poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 53 percent of the public had an unfavorable view of the law in Julythe highest level since the law was passed in 2010. It was up from 45 percent in June. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)  The law’s unpopularity hit similar levels several times since passing, most recently in January when 50 percent of people disliked it.

Support for the law in July remained about the same as in June, with 37 percent supporting it. The change came from the number of people who had previously told pollsters they did not know or refused to discuss their opinions: while 16 percent fell into that group in June, only 11 percent did in July.

The poll did not provide any definitive answers for the change but noted that people reported that their informal chatter with friends and family was more than four times as likely to be negative as supportive toward the law.

Public opinion was evenly divided on the Supreme Court’s decision that closely held companies such as the Hobby Lobby craft stores could refuse to provide workers with birth control through their insurance because it violated the religious beliefs of the company. Women and men also saw things pretty much the same. Seven of 10 Republicans hailed the decision, and Democrats disliked it just as strongly. The public was split about whether the decision will make it harder for women to get prescription birth control. Few people said the court’s action would make them more likely to vote in the fall mid-term elections.

Nearly six in 10 people believe that the decision may lead to employers using religious justifications to attempt to deny coverage for other health services, such as vaccinations or blood transfusions. Three-quarters of Democrats believed this is likely while 59 percent of Republicans do not. Just one in eight people think the court’s decision is a major setback for the health law. However, a third of the public did not know the decision was related to the health law.

The poll noted, as prior foundation polls have, that much of the public does not know how big parts of the law work. Fewer than four in 10 people were aware that people getting insurance through the law had a choice among private plans, even though most areas of the country have multiple insurers offering competing policies. A quarter of people thought there was a single government plan.

The poll was conducted from July 15 through July 21 among 1,507 adults. The margin of error was +/- 3 percentage points.

–Jordan Rau, Kaiser Health News

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10 Responses for “Florida Blue Raising Premiums 17.6% for Exchange Policies as Obamacare Ire Spikes”

  1. Genie says:

    We were lied to re the cost. Many families are still having a hard time affording this, especially those with deductibles so high they really are not ever receiving coverage.

    If we weren’t so busy spending billions on illegals, maybe we could afford to care for our own people?

  2. confidential says:

    Illegals have nothing to do with your failed and or lack of affordable Health Care. What a ridiculous excuse! The GOP total opposition to Health Care for all thanks to the pressure exercised on them by the Health Industry Insurance and Pharmaceuticals, are the real reason. Illegals come here if so on their own and work to pay, for all they need including taxes.
    What about the trillions wasted in foreign aid just to Israel alone 3 billions a year, plus the billions to so many more countries and the trillions and lives wasted in foreign wars to safeguard the oil revenues for the petrol barons or the 9 billions voided by Apple just last year in unpaid taxes hidden under overseas bogus bank accounts. Plus all the billions in tax incentives and loopholes to thousands of corporations that took their factories to profit from overseas slavery. I guess some just like to point at the unfound needle in the hay stack! Instead of looking at the sad reality that the so called illegals mostly come here escaping the criminal threats and pathetic powerty created by lawless cartels running after the shinny dollars generated by the drug users here at home…that is when I say – legalize the darn thing- and over with the trade and victims south of the border.

    • Genie says:

      @ Confidential: We can’t afford to be spending BILLIONS on anything right now but our own people. The needs of those in this country have never been greater. I don’t believe that’s political, do you? Nor do I oppose healthcare.

      Fourth year in a row they have raised premiums? PLEASE.

  3. A.S.F. says:

    This is a prime example of why we can’t trust a “competitive-based” business model in healthcare. Some non-profits are non-profits in name only. The executives who head them, in the worst cases, are feathering their own nests and hoping to cash in on bonuses and other perks, such as when non-profits turn into for-profits. You cannot trust the “business” model to work benignly in cases where the public good is at stake. Their first priority is to make money.

  4. karma says:

    Look how well the government run VA hospital system is working, yet everyone bitches about the private sector health system. There is only difference between a private sector CEO and government run Director, the CEO can get fired!!!

  5. Bill says:

    No great shocker that the cost to the buyer is going up by some 17-23% but how much more will it cost the rest of us that pay the part the individual pays? the AHC act was NEVER meant make health care costs go down or be truly affordable to all it WAS made to get more power,$$ and control for politicians.

  6. farmer says:

    I assume the illegals will get care even tho uninsured. We will pile up more debt for our children to PAY off..HA HA

  7. Bob Z. says:

    It will be interesting to see how much Florida Heath Care Plans will raise their rates…more or less they are a local provider even though they are somewhat a subsidiary of BCBS.

  8. Raul Troche says:

    I remember when car insurance became mandatory and we were told rates would go down.BS. Then workman’s comp became mandatory. Again BS. Now it’s mandatory health insurance (the UNaffordable health care act). Rates were to go down and you could keep your doctor. More BS. All of these things came with much lobbying and the lining of politicians pockets. These legislation’s and regulations along with their corresponding fines are not really there to help “the people” but rather special interest groups and politicians while taking away our freedom of choice. Meanwhile the men who passed the healthcare act don’t have to have it neither do some unions. These are tyrannical laws by a government that is constantly becoming more tyrannical. Very few of those who voted this act into law even read the 6000 pages of the act that suddenly had to be rushed through. The proper way to have done this is to work a good plan that was not mandatory, to where they have you by the privates, but rather as a good option.

  9. A.S.F. says:

    You gotta love Conservatives and the wild ways they view Obamacare. Half of them complain that it’s made insurance too expensive for Americans to afford. The other half complain about it being free healthcare and a tax burden on good honest working folk.

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