Healthcare Business News

Initial filings show 8% rise in premiums for 2015, Avalere says

By Paul Demko
Posted: June 18, 2014 - 6:00 pm ET

Insurers want to raise premiums by an average of 8% for individual plans that will be sold through state and federal exchanges in nine states, according to an analysis by Avalere Health.

The average premium for a silver plan, designed to cover 70% of medical costs, would increase from $324 to $350 a month.

The Washington-based research firm scrutinized rate filings in Connecticut, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington. The highest potential spike is in Indiana, where insurers want to increase premiums by an average of 16%, or $54 a month. By contrast, health plans in Oregon are seeking to decrease premiums by 1.4% on average, a $3 reduction.

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The rate filings are all preliminary and subject to scrutiny by state regulators. That means that premiums for products offered on the exchanges could be significantly different when the open enrollment period begins Nov. 15. Most states have not yet released proposed 2015 rates, so the nine states scrutinized by Avalere may not ultimately prove representative.

But with those caveats in mind, the proposed rates are still less than the average premium increase of 10% for individual plans between 2008 and 2010. That figure is from an analysis by Jonathan Gruber, a healthcare economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“Anything less than 10 or 12 percent is a huge victory,” Gruber said Wednesday, speaking at Enroll America’s “State of Enrollment” conference in Washington.

Paul Markovich, president and CEO of Blue Shield of California, speaking at the same conference, agreed with Gruber’s assessment that anything less than a double-digit increase in premiums for 2015 can be considered a success, but with a qualification. “It can’t be considered a success in the long term,” Markovich said. “We have to make this affordable.”

The Avelere study looked at premiums available for 40-year-old non-smokers in the nine states. The widest premium range was in Indiana, where monthly payments on a silver plan could range from $211 to $587. The least variation was found in Rhode Island, where monthly premiums would range from $239 to $340.

Matt Eyles, executive vice president at Avalere Health and the author of study, indicated that premiums should stabilize as the markets become more established. “However, given the timing of plan filings for 2015, issuers had very little data from the 2014 market to inform their pricing strategy,” Eyles said in a statement. “While average premiums are pretty steady in 2015, new market entrants are driving larger variations in some states.”

Follow Paul Demko on Twitter: @MHpdemko

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