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Obamacare premiums in Ohio might not rise as much as thought

TNS Regional News • Aug 9, 2014 at 4:07 PM

Ohioans who will buy their 2015 health coverage through the federally run marketplace later this year won’t necessarily be hit by the double-digit premium increases disclosed Thursday by state insurance officials and trumpeted by politicians opposed to the Affordable Care Act.

Average premiums for 2015 coverage will go up 12 percent for individuals and small businesses, under rates approved by the Ohio Department of Insurance. That’s down slightly from the average 13 percent increase in premiums proposed by insurance carriers in May.

For individual plans, the average premium for all marketplace plans will be about $373 per month in 2015, compared with $333 this year.

But those averages, which will include the plans that are expected to have few enrollees as well as more popular plans, “don’t tell you very much,” said Gary Claxton of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. “The consumer has to pay attention to what’s going on with their plan and the plans they can choose from.”

Consumers often will gravitate toward lower-cost plans, and the premium price can vary across geographic areas, he noted.

For example, in many geographic areas in which CareSource’s marketplace plans have been popular, the premium increases will be in the low single digits, Claxton said.

In Franklin County, for example, the rate increase for CareSource’s marketplace plans will range from 1.1 percent to 5.4 percent, according to the filing.

In its filing, CareSource projected enrollment in its marketplace plans will swell from 35,000 this year to nearly 64,000 next year.

Meanwhile, another carrier whose plans were popular in Ohio — Medical Mutual of Ohio — expects its rate increases to average about 7.7 percent, based on plans considered to have uniform modification of coverage.

The data released yesterday also do not factor in discounts that many consumers will see in their premiums next year. About 85 percent of the 154,668 Ohioans who signed up for 2014 marketplace plans are receiving tax credits averaging $250 per month, with Ohio residents getting a total $32 million in credits per month.

Some supporters of the federal health-care law that created the health-insurance marketplaces say opposition to the law from Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, who also heads the state Department of Insurance, deters her office from challenging insurance carriers’ proposed rate hikes.

“We are concerned that her hostility toward the Affordable Care Act has undermined her ability to be a public advocate for consumers in terms of rate review,” said Cathy Levine of the Universal Health Care Action Network of Ohio, a consumer-advocacy group. “She doesn’t want to prove herself wrong (about the law) by aggressively challenging rate increases.”

Taylor spokesman Chris Brock disagreed.

“The department is charged with making sure consumers are protected and that the companies are solvent,” Brock said. “There isn’t any incentive for the department to not review the rates to make sure they’re actuarially sound.”

Ohioans with employer-sponsored health coverage shouldn’t read too much into the rate increases. One reason: companies that are fully insured don’t have to comply with the Affordable Care Act’s essential health-benefit requirements, unlike health plans that are sold to many small businesses and individuals, said Carrie Haughawout, the department’s assistant director for policy and product coordination.

Politicians opposed to the Affordable Care Act seized on the 12 percent statistic, with U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio, saying it is “more evidence that Obamacare is not working for Ohio families.”


By Ben Sutherly - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)

©2014 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)

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