States Start to Approve Steep Increases in Health Premiums

The Obama administration and insurers are still trying to expand the number of enrollees in HealthCare.gov and state equivalents in a bid to turn the tide.

Higher rates typically push down enrollment, especially among people who don’t feel they badly need health care, which can lead to a cycle of falling enrollment and rate increases.

Many insurers have said they need a larger and more mixed group of enrollees than they currently have in many places to ensure that the health law’s markets stabilize.

“We’ve got to get a balanced risk pool, which means we need more healthy people,” said Patrick Getzen, chief actuary of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, which has said it requested an 18.8% increase for its individual plans for next year after seeing rising costs that led to sharply increased losses on Affordable Care Act plans in 2015. The insurer said it has yet to resolve final 2017 rates with North Carolina’s regulator.

In Kentucky, Anthem Inc. sought and won an increase of 22.9%. Humana asked for 33.7% and was granted 31%, the insurance regulator’s office said.

In Mississippi, Humana has been approved for a 43% increase, said insurance commissioner Mike Chaney. In Virginia, Anthem has been granted its request for a 15.8% increase.

Georgia’s insurance agency said it had signed off on rates including a 21.4% increase for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia.

WSJ
8/25/16