Covered CA: Consumer Groups Praise Moves to Limit Health Insurance Hikes

Consumer groups say instability in the health-care arena is largely responsible for increased insurance premiums proposed for 2018. Photo Credit: Goir/iStockphoto

Suzanne Potter
California News Service

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The 1.4 million Californians who buy health insurance through the state exchange could see a rate increase of 12.5 percent next year if state regulators approve a proposal released Tuesday by Covered California.

The agency also announced that Anthem is pulling out of 16 regions, but added that the change is mostly offset by Blue Shield, Health Net and Oscar expanding into new regions.

Dena Mendelsohn, staff attorney at the nonprofit Consumers Union, said it will be important for people to shop around for the best rates when open enrollment starts Nov. 1.

“They’re going to see rate increases, but they’re not as large as we’ve seen other years, so there is a strong picture for 2018 that there will be options for them,” she said. “Actually, if they shop around, they’ll be able to minimize any rate increases.”

According to Covered California, 96 percent of people will be able to choose from at least two plans, and 82 percent should be able to choose from three or more. However, it warned that Californians could see rates go up another 12 percent or so, on average, if the Trump administration follows through on a threat to stop making cost-sharing reduction payments to the insurers.

Covered California has said it has negotiated a workaround, whereby the cost-sharing reduction increases will only affect those with so-called “Silver” plans. Mendelsohn said the people in those plans may get extra help from the feds to pay their premiums.

“But it is important to note that many consumers do qualify for premium subsidies,” she said, “and since those subsidies are based on the Silver plan, then many consumers will actually be sheltered from the largest of these increases.”

The proposed Covered California increases still must be approved by the Department of Managed Health Care and the State Department of Insurance. Both departments are taking public comments on their websites though the last week of September, at or