As Idaho gets ready for the third year of using a state health exchange under the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies are still adapting to the new system. This month, those companies announced some proposed rate increases for insurance policies next year.
The Associated Press reported last week that Blue Cross of Idaho has asked for the most rate hikes.
“[That’s] simply because we offer more plan options for people,” says Josh Jordan, manager of Corporate Communications with Blue Cross of Idaho. He says every insurance carrier in the state asked for increases.
Jordan says the average rate increase for individual Blue Cross plans in 2016 is 24 percent. Last year, the price hike was nine percent. He says there are a variety of things affecting prices.
“More people have health insurance in the individual market in Idaho than have ever had it before,” says Jordan. “That’s a really good thing. So those people have tended to have a higher utilization maybe than our existing or previously insured members or than we were anticipating.”
He says the high utilization of services shows people who got insurance, needed it.
“Hopefully it can help people in their health,” he says.
Jordan says the rate increases are not limited to Blue Cross or to Idaho.
“Across the nation, Idaho actually is nowhere near the top,” he says. “You’re seeing rates across the nation in the 30, 40, even 50 percent increase range.”
Jordan says the Affordable Care Act addressed health care reform by increasing access. It also increased some of the services that health insurers needed to cover on their plans.
“One thing it has not addressed is the underlying causes of these increased utilizations, things like health and wellness,” Jordan says. “Why is it people are needing more and more services. It’s also not addressing anything about cost. Those are things the health industry is going to have to deal with going forward.”
Jordan says for every $1 Blue Cross is bringing in in premiums, it’s paying roughly $1.08 out in claims. “Whether you’re a person, a company, or a country, spending more money than you take in is going to lead to some financial problems,” he says.
Jordan says higher insurance prices could push some people off insurance. But he says subsidies through the Affordable Care Act can help. And having more people on Idaho’s health exchange would help.
“Cost is always a concern, we understand that. People have to make the right decisions for them,” Jordan says. “We do everything we can to keep it to the lowest prices possible.”
Josh Jordan says any increase in insurance rates must be approved by Idaho’s Department of Insurance.
Currently, Blue Cross of Idaho has 49,792 people enrolled in coverage plans through Idaho’s health care exchange. Blue Cross serves more than 89,000 people with plans, both on and off the exchange.