Insurers in Maine are seeking double-digit rate increases for their 2017 Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace plans, according to the Maine Bureau of Insurance.
Although most of the proposed increases will be absorbed by federal subsidies, experts continue to be concerned about the overall trend of rising costs associated with ACA exchange plans.
According to rate filings, Community Health Options seeks a 22.8 percent hike; Harvard Pilgrim, 18.7 percent; Aetna, 14.2 percent; and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, 14.1 percent. The Bureau of Insurance and the federal government will have a final say on the proposed rate increases.
All rate increases that would take effect in January are required to be submitted in May.
“The announcement that Maine's health insurance companies are seeking large premium increases for plans sold in the Obamacare exchange comes as no surprise and reflects broader national trends,” Liam Siguad, policy analyst at the Maine Heritage Policy Center, recently told Patient Daily. “Since its implementation, Obamacare has driven insurance companies across the country to withdraw from the exchange or significantly raise premiums to offset unexpected costs, while many of the co-ops created in individual states have collapsed.”
Fortunately, most Maine enrollees will see little to no increase in their 2017 premiums due to the way the ACA is structured in the state, which caps the amount enrollees pay and makes subsidies available to individuals earning 100 percent to 400 percent of the federal poverty limit.
However, premiums increase when income increases, if there is a change in family size or if an enrollee opts for a different plan.
Word of the proposed rate increases does not come as a surprise to health care experts. Because insurers saw a larger than expected number of claims last year, many predicted that rate hikes were imminent.
“These developments are a consequence of a poorly designed, government-centered piece of legislation that stifled market forces and placed additional administrative burdens on insurance companies,” Siguad said.
Last year’s rate requests were much lower than this year’s. Community Health Options requested a 0.5 percent increase, and the other insurers had a 5 percent premium increase.
According to a report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, premiums went up by 4 percent nationally in 2016, the Portland Press Herald reported.
Although the ACA was designed to make health care coverage more affordable and more accessible to everyone, the ever-rising premiums counter the benefits the act was supposed to provide. And with federal subsidies expiring at the end of the year, insurers are bound to pass the losses onto consumers.
“Unfortunately, the solution to the problem of soaring health care costs -- promoting direct primary care, repealing certificate of need regulations and creating more transparency for customers -- is often being ignored,” Siguad said.
The 2017 marketplace enrollment period opens up this November, just one week before the presidential elections -- creating a predicament for Democrats. With premiums and deductibles set to increase substantially in 2017 in most states, voters will have the opportunity to take their frustrations to the polls.