Obamacare expected to keep rates low for most, federal officials say


The most popular insurer on the state's exchange, Blue Cross Blue Shield of IL, has proposed premium increases ranging from 23 percent to 45 percent for its individual health care plans on the exchange.

Kevin Walters, director of communications for the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance, told The Daily Caller News Foundation that "Tennessee has struggled to curb healthcare costs", and that the state "has some of the highest insurance claims costs in the nation".

Lack of insurer participation in the Affordable Care Act exchange is of particular concern for rural areas.

While Tennessee residents suffered Obamacare premium sticker shock this year, with increases as high as 36 percent, those rates will pale by comparison to those that received final state approval for the coming year: BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee was granted a jaw-dropping 62 percent average increase; Cigna was given a 46 percent average increase and Humana was granted a 44.3 percent average increase. With two full years of experience, many issuers are making one-time adjustments this year to bring premiums in line with observed costs. Open enrollment is scheduled to start on November 1, a week before the presidential election. "We may be beginning to see the death spiral of insurance plans in the exchanges". However, many middle-income people and families who don't qualify for premium subsidies have found exchange coverage hard to afford. He agreed with the federal officials who said that tax subsidies offered to those shopping on the exchanges would be key. "Premiums are skyrocketing in OH and across the country because Washington bureaucrats are over-regulating the market and forcing consumers to buy coverage they do not want and can not afford".

"Headline rate increases do not reflect what consumers actually pay", said Kathryn Martin, acting assistant secretary of HHS for Planning and Evaluation.

Higher rates typically push down enrollment, especially among people who don't feel they badly need health care, which can lead to a cycle of falling enrollment and rate increases.

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"The more we can educate on the front end, the longer they'll stay with us", Gilliard said.

"Prior to Affordable Care Act, it was nearly impossible to shop for insurance", Martin said". Importantly, they are just as satisfied with their coverage as people with employer plans.

The Obama administration is going on the offensive to try and recruit new enrollees a week after insurance giant Aetna announced it was preparing to withdraw from the program. According to its data, 85% of 2016 marketplace plan selections in states using HealthCare.gov were with a tax credit.

"If you had very few options to begin with, and now you're left with [even] fewer carriers and reduced competition, that can mean an increase in insurance premiums", she said. Aetna has denied that notion and said the decision is exclusively because of growing financial losses in the program.

In eight counties, only Blue Cross Blue Shield will sell individual coverage.