Individual Health-Insurance Rates to Rise 8.7% in 2019

Healthcare advocates in California are pushing for a state-based individual mandate to buy insurance, and additional subsidies to make coverage more affordable. Photo Credit: Flickr

Suzanne Potter
California News Service

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Rates will go up an average of almost 9 percent next year for Californians who buy health insurance on the individual market, according to projections released Thursday by Covered California, the state insurance marketplace.

That’s a smaller increase than many other states. But Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, says people in the Golden State would have paid much less had the Trump administration left the Affordable Care Act alone.

“This rate increase is about double what it should have been and could have been, but for federal policies,” says Lee, “in particular the removal of the penalty for not having insurance coverage.”

President Donald Trump maintains the individual mandate violated people’s freedoms. Lee adds that despite the changes, competition remains healthy. All 11 health insurers currently serving California will stay – and 96 percent of consumers still have least two choices of insurer.

Heather Altman, who has a preexisting condition – asthma – owns a small consulting firm in Long Beach. She buys coverage on the individual market, but doesn’t qualify for subsidies and says she’s not sure she can handle any more increases.

“As a small business person,” Altman says, “I’m asking myself, ‘At what point in time do I pull the plug on my business if I can’t afford my insurance?'”

Anthony Wright, with the nonprofit Health Access, advises people to stay covered rather than risk financial ruin, take advantage of the subsidies if you’re eligible, and shop around. He also thinks lawmakers should be held accountable – particularly the 14 members of the California delegation who tried to repeal the ACA.

“It’s shocking that California Congress members have been part of lawsuits and have cheered on efforts to destabilize the insurance market,” says Wright, “directly causing higher premium spikes for their own constituents.”

Wright adds he supports two bills in the state Legislature, Senate Bills 910 and 1375. They’d limit substandard policies that may become common now that the feds are allowing so-called “skinny” insurance plans that are cheaper but have much less coverage.