UPDATED: Obamacare Rates Could Jump 12 Percent or More in 2018, Preliminary Figures Show

MacIver News Service | August 2, 2017

By Chris Rochester

Update: Molina Healthcare announced Wednesday it will withdraw from Obamacare exchanges in Wisconsin and Utah, citing a $230 million quarterly loss. The company had requested rate increases of 40+ percent for 2018 prior to the announcement. Read the company’s announcement here.

[Madison, Wis…] Obamacare premium increases will likely continue their rapid upward trajectory in 2018, according to new numbers from healthcare.gov.

Premiums for health insurance plans on Wisconsin’s Obamacare exchange could increase by 12 percent in 2018. Preliminary rate increase requests by Wisconsin insurance companies were posted Monday to the federal website.

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Of the 90 Obamacare-compliant health insurance plans that reported rate changes to healthcare.gov, the average increase was 12 percent. Rate changes range from a modest 6.15 percent decrease to a staggering 46.25 percent increase.

The 12 percent figure is likely to change as insurers finalize their rate requests for 2018. The state Office of the Commissioner of Insurance then has to approve or deny the requests. Last year, preliminary figures showed a potential 10 percent increase, but the final figure was considerably higher at 16 percent.

Insurers are also awaiting a decision from President Donald Trump on whether to continue federal reinsurance payments to insurance companies, which partially offset the massive losses many insurers sustain by offering Obamacare plans.

The increases shouldn’t come as a surprise considering the declining health of the individual market. Between 2014 and 2016, the number of insurers offering plans on Wisconsin’s individual insurance market dropped from 54 to 41 – a 24 percent decline, according to OCI data.

Major health insurance companies have also dropped out of the Obamacare market en masse, including four of the five largest insurers in the country. Aetna and Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield announced earlier this year they would join Humana and UnitedHealth in withdrawing from Obamacare’s exchanges throughout the country.

Health Tradition Health Plan, an offering of Mayo Health System of La Crosse, also announced in early July it would not be offering Obamacare plans starting with 2018.

For 2018, insurers requested a premium increase for 83 plans effective on or after Jan. 1, 2018, while they requested a modest decrease for just seven plans.

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A total of 17 plans requested increases of more than 20 percent, and four requested increases north of 40 percent. Molina Healthcare of Wisconsin requested the steepest increase for its individual HMO, a hike of 46.25 percent over 2017 rates.

Molina also requested a 40.76 percent premium increase for another of its individual plans, and Compcare Health and Network Health Plan also requested increases of more than 40 percent.

The proposed 2018 double-digit price increases come on top of a 16 percent premium increase last year and a family deductible of more than $7,000 for a mid-level silver plan.

Wisconsin’s troubled Common Ground Obamacare co-op, a taxpayer-supported nonprofit insurer established as an alternative to for-profit insurance companies, requested increases of 20.32 percent and 17.99 percent for its plans in 2018, considerably higher than last year’s 12.2 percent preliminary request.

Rate changes must be approved by state insurance commissioners. At the time of our search, only requested rate increases were available, while none had yet been approved, denied, or finalized.

Trump is expected to make an announcement Tuesday about the future of the Obamacare reinsurance payments – which, OCI officials say, could have a significant impact on the rate increases Wisconsinites will eventually absorb next year.