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Rates going up next year under Affordable Care Act

by Associated Press

BATON ROUGE — Rate increases have been posted for “Obamacare” plans offered by three health insurers in Louisiana, with Blue Cross and Blue Shield boosting rates as much as 41 percent on average for 2017, although some customers may see premiums skyrocket by 54.7 percent.

State Department of Insurance records show Vantage Health Plan is implementing a 31.5 percent increase and Humana an average increase of 29.5 percent.

The Advocate reports the increases don’t mean everyone will pay more for coverage. Under the Affordable Care Act, consumers who make between 138 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level are eligible for financial assistance. Those subsidies increase as health premiums go up.

Enrollment for 2017 plans started Tuesday and ends Jan. 31.

Blue Cross currently covers 134,000 people in the state; Vantage Health, 42,000 people; and Humana, 30,991 people under the Affordable Care Act plans.

In Louisiana, 81 percent of consumers who buy coverage through the online federal health insurance marketplace can find plans with a premium of less than $75 per month, and 84 percent can find plans with premiums of less than $100, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

In its filings, Blue Cross said the higher rates were needed for a number of reasons, including an expected increase in utilization and cost of services, to cover taxes and fees, and the end of a federal reinsurance program that helps protect insurers from costly claims.

The reinsurance program made $7.8 billion in payments for Affordable Care Act plans sold in 2015.

In May, Blue Cross and subsidiary HMO Louisiana requested rate increases averaging in a range from 20.5 percent to 28.3 percent for Affordable Care Act plans sold through the federal marketplace. However, on June 30, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a report on programs designed to help offset insurers’ costs for covering sicker and higher-cost consumer.

After the report was issued, the state Insurance Department allowed Blue Cross to revise its rate filings. The department approved rate increases averaging from 23.4 percent to 41.1 percent.

The rates vary by health plan and customer

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