California sees low ObamaCare rate increases for 2015

Premiums on California's health insurance exchange will rise only a small amount in 2015, striking another blow to predictions that rates would increase sharply in ObamaCare's second year. 

Most consumers on the state's marketplace — the country's largest by far — will see their premiums increase by an average of 4.2 percent, Covered California officials announced Thursday. Others will see no increase or a decrease in price. 

"This is good news for Californians and an example of how Covered California and the Affordable Care Act are working to make health insurance affordable," Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee said in a statement. 

"As we move into our second open enrollment and first renewal for many Californians, we are glad to see consumers have a real choice, with affordable options in all regions," Lee said. 

The 4.2 percent increase is a weighted average that takes into account insurers' proposed rate changes as well as how many consumers will experience each one. 

Some plans will decrease their rates by an average of 8.5 percent, state officials said. The changes are preliminary and still must be finalized by regulators. 

The news received quick praise from Democrats in Congress. 

"Before Congress passed the Affordable Care Act in 2010, consumers were at the mercy of double-digit rate increases year after year," said Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), an author of the law. 

"Today's announcement by the Covered California marketplace shows that those days are done." 

About 1.4 million people purchased private health insurance through Covered California by the end of the healthcare law's first enrollment period. 

The state's uninsured rate fell sharply as a result of the new system and the law's expansion of Medicaid. 

The rate announcement came after California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said premium increases for individual plans were "significantly higher" entering 2014 than in the past. 

Jones made the comment after a state analysis found that rates for individual coverage rose by as much as 88 percent between 2013 and 2014.

Republicans have criticized various new coverage standards in ObamaCare for raising insurance prices.

This November, California voters will consider a ballot measure giving regulators new powers to approve health insurance rates.