Individual rates jump; employers insulated

Insurance executives in Michigan privately say they don’t expect a miracle in Congress that would mitigate the record-high premium increases coming for 2018 if the subsidies are not paid.

For its more expansive PPO products if the cost-sharing subsidy is approved by Trump, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is asking for a 26.9 percent average rate increase, and a 13.8 percent hike for Blue Care Network’s more closely managed HMO plans.

However, if the federal subsidies — that lower-income people under 250 percent of the federal poverty level receive by insurers to help pay out-of-pocket claims — are discontinued, Blue Cross is asking the state to approve an increase in average rates of 31.7 percent and 22.6 percent for Blue Care.

Blue Cross is the state’s largest health insurer. In 2017, Blue Cross has sold about 215,000 individual policies, down 100,000 from 2014, Andy Hetzel, vice president of corporate communications, said. Blue Cross’ total membership in 2016 was 4.61 million in Michigan and 5.34 million nationwide.

With the rate increase proposals, Hetzel said Blue Cross expects individual enrollment to decline further. He did not estimate the drop.

Last year, for 2017, Blue Cross won a 18.7 percent rate increase for the individual market. Blue Care Network won a 14.8 percent increase. While the overall state average was 16.7 percent, those numbers were an average and did not include federal subsidies that lowered the overall increase for those eligible to an effective rate of less than 8 percent.

Meridian Health Plan of Michigan said its average 2018 rate increase request with cost-sharing subsidies intact is 8.3 percent, but it jumps to 59.4 percent without the subsidies.

HAP is proposing a 16.1 percent average rate increase with cost-sharing subsidies, or 24 percent without the subsidies, said Lee Ann Welsh, a HAP spokesman. The increase would affect 17,000 members of HAP, which is owned by Henry Ford Health System.

“The primary driver of the rate increase…

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