Pennsylvania insurers buck trend for giant rate hikes with single-digit bump request
Insurers in several states have asked for giant rate hikes for 2018 individual insurance policies, raising doubts about the future stability of the Affordable Care Act's insurance exchanges. But Pennsylvania's health insurers bucked the trend and requested single-digit increases on average, and the state's top insurance regulator says Obamacare is alive and well.
Insurers in Pennsylvania are requesting an average rate increase of 8.8% for individual plans and 6.6% for small group plans in 2018. Those requests are far lower than the double-digit average increases requested by insurers in several other states, including Connecticut and Virginia, where insurers asked for rates that exceeded 50% in some cases.
Pennsylvania's relatively small rate increase requests could jump if the Trump administration repeals the individual insurance mandate or fails to fund cost-sharing reduction subsidies that help low-income exchange members afford coverage, state Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller said Thursday. That's the same warning that several other state insurance regulators and marketplace insurers have issued for months.
"These low percentages show that Pennsylvania's market is stabilizing and insurers are better understanding the markets and the population they serve," Miller said in a statement. "I sincerely hope that Congress and the Trump administration do not take action that could negatively impact the progress we have made in Pennsylvania."
The five insurers that sold plans in Pennsylvania's individual market this year are all slated to return next year. Together, Capital Blue Cross, Geisinger Health Plan, Highmark Health Plan, Independence Blue Cross and UPMC Health Plan insure about 506,000 people in the state's individual market.
The rate requests are not final. Pennsylvania insurance regulators said the insurers would seek a 23.3% average rate increase statewide if the individual mandate is repealed, and a 20.3% rate increase if cost-sharing reductions are not paid to insurers. Without the mandate or cost-sharing subsidies, insurers estimated they would ask for rate increases of 36.3% on average.
About 76% of Pennsylvania's exchange members receive premium tax credits and would be protected against the rate hikes. The others would shoulder the added financial burden.
"This proves what we already know—instability caused by adverse action from the federal government will do nothing but hurt consumers who are stuck in the middle," Miller said. Enrollees "deserve single-digit rate increases like the ones most people will see if Congress and the Trump Administration choose not to risk consumers' health and financial well-being by jeopardizing the stability of these markets."
Many insurers in other states with early rate-filing deadlines have asked for giant rate hikes in large part because of the uncertainty surrounding the future of the individual insurance mandate and cost-sharing subsidies. They have warned that they may hike rates even higher if the federal government doesn't take steps to ease their jitters over ACA repeal-and-replace efforts.
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