New York, Washington state propose double digit rate hikes for ObamaCare plans

New York, Washington state propose double digit rate hikes for ObamaCare plans

ObamaCare insurers in New York and Washington state are proposing double-digit rate hikes for 2019, citing recent and upcoming changes to the law.

In New York, 14 insurers are asking state regulators to approve an average rate hike of 24 percent, while 11 insurers in Washington state want to increase premiums by an average of 19.08 percent.

New York attributed the proposed increases to Congress's repeal of the individual mandate, while Washington state blamed uncertainty over the Trump administration's looming changes to ObamaCare.

"With respect to the individual market, the single biggest justification offered by insurers for the requested increases is the Trump Administration’s repeal of the individual mandate penalty," New York's Department of Financial Services said in a statement. 

"Insurers have attributed approximately half of their requested rate increases to the risks they see resulting from its repeal."

Without the repeal, which takes effect next year, the average increase among ObamaCare insurers in New York would have been about 12 percent, regulators estimate. 

Of the 14 insurers that have submitted rate proposals for the 2019 plan year, all but one are asking for an increase. 

Fidelis asked state regulators to approve a 38.6 percent rate hike, attributing 25.9 percent of that increase to the repeal of the mandate. 

Emblem asked for a 31.5 percent increase, with 12 percent attributed to the repeal of the mandate. 

The proposals are not final and must be approved by the state. 

Insurers worry the repeal of the mandate will dissuade healthy customers from buying plans, leading to higher costs for insurers who would have to cover a smaller pool of sicker, more expensive patients.

In Washington state, 11 insurers proposed an average rate increase of 19.08 percent, said state insurance commissioner Mike Kreidler.

“There’s still a great deal of uncertainty in individual markets across the country, fueled by the Trump administration’s efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act," Kreidler said.

"Instead of getting behind solutions that shore up these markets, the administration seems solely focused on undermining our health insurance system and the individuals and families who need to buy their coverage in the individual market."

Kreidler is referring to two proposals from the administration that would expand access to short-term health plans and association health plans. These health plans are cheaper but offer fewer benefits. 

The administration says such plans offer a less expensive alternative for those who can't afford the more comprehensive ObamaCare plans.

But Democrats and some health experts argue these proposals would draw healthier people away from ObamaCare, leading to premium increases for those still buying ObamaCare plans. 

“If the administration was serious about providing relief to consumers, it would abandon its proposals to segment the market with association health plans and short-term, limited-duration medical plans and work with Congress to pass market stabilization legislation and find solutions to the rising costs of health care and prescription drugs," Kreidler said.

Health experts are expecting ObamaCare insurers to request rate hikes across the country based on the repeal of the mandate and the administration's ObamaCare proposals.

However, because ObamaCare subsidies are designed to increase with premiums, customers who receive subsidies to purchase insurance are unlikely to be impacted. 

People who don't qualify for subsidies but still want to buy insurance through ObamaCare, on the other hand, would face hefty premium increases.