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Washington State Rates Going Way up in 2017 for Individual Health-care Plans

By Eowyn @DrEowyn

Shocker, not.

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From the Seattle Times: Health insurers in Washington are requesting a sharp jump in rates for individual plans next year — up 13.5 percent, on average — and fewer options will be offered through the state-run insurance exchange, officials announced Monday.

Thirteen insurers have filed 154 individual health plans for 2017, including nine companies offering plans within the state exchange, Washington Healthplanfinder, and four selling plans only outside of the exchange.

The firms have requested rate increases ranging from a 7.4 percent jump for Coordinated Care to a 20 percent hike for Premera Blue Cross, with an average increase of 13.5 percent based on enrollment, according to figures released by the Office of the Insurance Commissioner.

The move comes amid predicted rises in rates nationwide as insurers say coverage required by the federal Affordable Care Act health-care law has proved to be a financial drain. In Virginia, for instance, which reports on rate requests early, hikes ranged from 9.4 percent to 37.1 percent.

Premera lost about $117 million in 2015, the company said, largely because it received nearly $412 million in premiums in 2015 but paid out nearly $457 million in claims, plus about $72 million in administrative expenses, according to its filing.

As more consumers have gained confidence in the insurance exchange, use has gone up and rates have to be adjusted accordingly, said Melanie Coon, a spokeswoman for Premera. “We have two full years of data and that is really showing us what we need to do,” she said.

Rates for 2016 rose by about 4.2 percent, but Commissioner Mike Kreidler said the new jump was expected. “The requested rate changes are not a surprise, as we expected insurers to make adjustments based on their earlier predictions compared to who actually signed up and what services they used,” he said in a statement. “Clearly, some of the insurers guessed better than others.”

The increases affect individual plans, not the group health insurance plans many people receive through their employers.

All of the proposed rates, benefits and provider networks for 2017 are currently under review, Kreidler said. How much consumers pay depends on where they live, their ages, lifestyle factors such as smoking and which health plans they select. “We know that no one wants to see their rates go up,” Kreidler said. “We will review each plan carefully over the next several months to make sure that any rate changes are justified.”

United HealthCare of Washington announced earlier this year that it would leave Washington’s individual market in 2017, and Moda withdrew from the state in January. Two other statewide insurers, Premera and Lifewise, announced that they intend to stop marketing plans outside the exchange and will reduce the number of counties where they offer plans.

Since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, Washington’s uninsured rate has dropped to about 7.5 percent down from 14.5 percent in 2011 (I guess a penalty for not having coverage will do that). Nearly a million more residents have health insurance coverage now, Kreidler said. Nationwide, more than 12 million people have enrolled in the health-plan exchanges, which offer subsidized private insurance.

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