Health Insurance Premium Proposals 7.5 Percent Higher for 2015

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By Sara Hansard  

Aug. 8 — Health insurance premiums are slated to rise by 7.5 percent on average in 2015, according to an analysis by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP's Health Research Institute (HRI).

The analysis, updated Aug. 1 and publicized in the HRI's weekly newsletter Aug. 8, said publicly released premium proposals in 27 states and the District of Columbia vary widely, from a 23 percent decrease in Arizona to a 36 percent increase in Nevada. The analysis is for the individual market and not specific to the Affordable Care Act health insurance marketplaces, although in many states the two are essentially the same, the HRI said.

The average monthly premium without federal subsidies provided under the ACA for low- and moderate-income people is about $384, the HRI said. Among states that have reported premiums, Indiana had the highest average increase at 15.4 percent for six plans and the highest average premium rate of $514, the HRI said. In Oregon, average premiums were 2.5 percent lower for 2015, although the median premium increase was 1.4 percent, the lowest of the premium changes shown in the interactive map on the HRI website. State insurance commissioners haven't yet approved the premium rate proposals, the analysis said.

BCBS Increases Average Above 9 Percent

The “bellwether” BlueCross BlueShield (BCBS) plans have submitted increase requests across the country typically above 9 percent, the analysis said. BCBS plans are being offered in ACA marketplaces, also known as exchanges, in most states.

“Year two of the exchanges is expected to see an upswing in participation from several major commercial insurers,” the analysis said. Major national insurers such as UnitedHealth Group Inc., as well as new Consumer Operated and Oriented Plans (CO-OPs) are expected to add products and operate in additional states, according to a blog posting by Ceci Connolly, managing director of the HRI, and Caitlin Sweany, a senior manager of the HRI. The ACA authorizes nonprofit CO-OPs to receive start-up loans from the federal government.

Insurers Factored in Additional Costs

“Importantly insurers have factored in additional costs for 2015, such as a higher industry fee (up from $8 billion this year to $11.3 billion) and a lower federal reimbursement rate for reinsurance of high-dollar claims,” the blog posting said.

California, the largest state in terms of population, with 1.4 million enrollees in 2014, is reporting a weighted average increase of about 4.2 percent, and in New York officials recently announced a weighted average increase of 13 percent in 2015, the blog posting said.

Arizona has the lowest premium filing at $211 a month, according to the blog posting. However, the average premiums proposed in the state are 11.2 percent higher for 2015, and the median premiums are 14 percent higher, according to the interactive map in the analysis.

Colorado has the widest range of rate proposal requests among 12 carriers, according to the blog posting: from a 22 percent reduction to a 35 percent increase.

Sweany told Bloomberg BNA in an e-mail Aug. 8 that a new update “should be posted early next week.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Sara Hansard in Washington at shansard@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Janey Cohen at jcohen@bna.com