Maine insurers seek double-digit hikes under health care law
May. 11, 2016
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Insurers are seeking double-digit premium increases in the coming year for tens of thousands of Mainers who receive insurance through President Barack Obama's health care law.
Proposals filed with the Maine Bureau of Insurance would raise individual plan premiums between 14 percent and 23 percent under the health care law's marketplace. All told, more than 84,000 Mainers are signed up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
The proposed increases came as no surprise as insurers warned of significant premium hikes.
"Now that people have had coverage and they're getting used to it, there are more claims. Carriers overall said they had a lot of cost and claims," said Emily Brostek, executive director of Consumers for Affordable Health Care in Augusta.
Community Health Options, which accounts for the biggest share of marketplace plans, proposed an average 22.8 percent increase after experiencing troubles last year. Harvard Pilgrim proposed an 18.7 percent increase and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield proposed a 14.1 percent hike.
The federal government says tax credits offset premium increases for 87 percent of Maine consumers who use the marketplaces created by the law. But the tax credits don't apply to consumers who buy plans off the exchanges. Those consumers are going to see higher premiums, as well.
It's also possible the increases could be knocked back after a review by the Maine Bureau of Insurance and the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
The health law's markets still are searching for stability.
Lewiston-based Community Health Options was the only cooperative in the country to make money on the Affordable Care Act's public insurance exchanges in 2014, but it posted a $31 million loss last year and stopped taking new customers. While its proposed individual rate increases averaged out to 23 percent for the coming year, there was a range of premium increases from 17 percent to nearly 45 percent.
CEO Kevin Lewis said insurers now have a better understanding of the market.
"2017 is a better reflection of where the pricing has to be to cover the costs. We are committed to lowering over time the costs of coverage, but that's dependent on getting better value for the premium dollar and lowering the cost of care," he said.
Across the board, small group plan premium changes were less dramatic.
The process in Maine soon will be playing out elsewhere. Maine's deadline this week was one of the earlier deadlines for proposals.
Nationwide, more than 12 million people get coverage though the health law's markets, which offer subsidized private insurance. The increases also could affect several million people who bought individual policies outside the government system.
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