Insurers Still Calculating Rate Increases for Exchange Plans in 2015
Most insurers plan to increase premium costs for health plans offered through the Affordable Care Act in 2015, but few can confidently predict what those rates will be because of a lack of data on enrollees, Kaiser Health News/Washington Post reports.
The 2014 enrollment period ended in March for most consumers, and insurers selling plans through the federal health exchange have until May or June to file their initial 2015 rate requests. That short time frame means that insurers -- which under the ACA can no longer reject applicants for pre-existing conditions -- have little data on the health and costs of their new enrollees, KHN/Post reports.
Brian Lobley, senior vice president of marketing and consumer business at Pennsylvania's Independence Blue Cross, said, "We're working with about a third of the information that we usually have."
Sabrina Corlette, project director at the Georgetown University Center on Health Insurance Reforms, said, "We'll see rate increases in the marketplaces, but I think it's anyone's guess" about the precise cost increases.
Insurers so far have determined that early enrollees in the exchanges tended to be older and sicker than average. However, they have not yet discovered much about later enrollees, other than that they tend to be a bit younger.
Insurers have several defenses against substantial premium increases, including the general expectation that enrollees would be sicker and older overall -- which means that initial premium costs anticipated such consumers' needs. Meanwhile, several aspects of the ACA were designed to buffer insurers from an unexpectedly sick population (Hancock, Kaiser Health News/Washington Post, 4/26).
Health care consultant Robert Laszewski said at a conference on Friday that insurers would likely only increase their premium costs "modestly," noting that larger increases would likely be stemmed by the ACA's buffers against sicker-than-expected enrollees (Adams, CQ HealthBeat, 4/25).
Meanwhile, industry experts also have identified other factors that could influence premium costs, including:
- How non-ACA-compliant plans will affect average policy costs;
- Overall medical pricing; and
- The number of procedures consumers receive (Kaiser Health News/Washington Post, 4/26).