Most Idaho health insurance rates to increase in 2016

Almost all Idaho health insurance plans sold on the state’s health insurance exchange will have rate increases next year, according to the Idaho Department of Insurance.

Blue Cross of Idaho’s rates for individuals buying their own plans will go up an average of 23 percent. Company officials say the increase is needed after Blue Cross lost millions of dollars because current customer premiums are not keeping up with claims paid.

Last year, the company’s average rate increase for individual policies was about 15 percent. That year, the company paid nearly $221.1 million in claims while receiving $188.7 in premiums.

Other average rate changes for 2016, including for plans sold off the Idaho health insurance exchange:

•  Mountain Health COOP: 26 percent

•  SelectHealth: 15 percent

•  Regence BlueShield of Idaho: 10 percent

•  BridgeSpan Health, a sister company of Regence: 7 percent

•  PacificSource Health Plans: -8 percent

State Insurance Director Dean Cameron said he did not find any proposed rate changes to be unreasonable.

“In spite of our best efforts in working with carriers, health insurance rates will be increasing for some Idahoans in 2016,” Cameron said in a news release. “We will continue to explore ways to minimize increases going forward. In the meantime, we urge consumers to review their plans and shop wisely with assistance from a licensed agent and Your Health Idaho.”

The increases will apply to plans sold on Your Health Idaho, the state-run exchange created under President Barack Obama’s health care law. Rate increases also will apply to plans sold off the exchange to individuals who are self-insured. They do not apply to employer-sponsored insurance plans, which serve more people.

The department also announced final rate changes for plans sold to small groups and small employers:

•  Altius Health Plans: 11 percent

•  Aetna: 8 percent

•  Blue Cross of Idaho: 11 percent

•  Mountain Health COOP: 27 percent

•  PacificSource: -8 percent

•  Regence BlueShield of Idaho 1 percent

•  SelectHealth: 7 percent

•  UnitedHealthcare: 4 percent

•  WMI Mutual Insurance Company: 0 percent

In the cases of Altius, Aetna and Mountain Health COOP, the final rate increase ended up being higher on average than what they initially proposed.

The Affordable Care Act has been in place since 2013, but providers across the nation have just recently catalogued a full year’s worth of data on customer use and medical costs – all factors needed to fully weigh how much rates should be adjusted for next year.

However, the rate filings do not indicate how much more the average Idahoan will pay for health insurance next year. Why? Some health plans whose rates are disclosed cover many thousands of people, while others cover hundreds, which means their rate changes could have a much different overall impact on the state.

At the same time, a handful of factors can determine a person’s insurance premiums for 2016. Federal law allows health insurance companies to set premiums based on your age, where you live, whether you smoke and the type of plan you choose.

The plans are required to comply with the Affordable Care Act’s rules for insurance costs and benefits.

The state’s insurance department does not have the authority to approve or deny rates for plans sold on Your Health Idaho. Its role is to review whether rate increases are reasonable. However, the department said in a news release that it “has negotiated with carriers since May 1 for rates lower than those originally proposed.”


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