HELENA – Two of the three private health insurers selling policies on the “Obamacare” marketplace in Montana say they’re still planning only small increases for 2018, assuming the landmark health-care law will be enforced and unchanged.
“We’re sticking with the rates that we have now,” said Larry Turney, president of the Montana Health Co-op, which has about 18,000 customers with individual policies in the state.
The Co-op plans to raise premiums next year by an average of 4 percent, while PacificSource, with about 12,000 customers in Montana, has a 7.4 percent average hike for its individual policies.
But the third and biggest company selling in the Montana marketplace — Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana – is standing pat on a different assumption and a 20 percent average increase: That the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) may not be strongly enforced by the Trump administration, leading to potential higher costs for insurers.
Blue Cross has about 32,000 customers buying individual policies in Montana.
The companies have until next Tuesday to file any changes to proposed rates they filed earlier this summer with the state auditor’s office.
The rates will be made final early this fall, and signup for policies starts Nov. 1.
All three companies said they’re not planning to file for any major changes next week – although Blue Cross hopes to offer a slightly different and lower-priced product for individuals who don’t get federal subsidies to help them pay for the policy.
Blue Cross spokesman John Doran told MTN News this week that federal subsidies likely will offset any increase in premiums for most people buying health-insurance policies through the Obamacare online marketplace. The subsidies are available for most people earning up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $81,000 for a family of three.
Yet for the few thousand people who buy individual polices but don’t use the marketplace, and can’t get a subsidy, the new product would have only a 3 percent increase, he said.
Blue Cross plans to file plans for the new product next week, Doran said, and is working with the state auditor’s office on whether it will be accepted.
The online health-insurance “marketplace” is a key element of the ACA, the 2010 health-care overhaul signed into law by then-President Barack Obama – although it affects only a small part of the overall health insurance market.
It was designed to make policies more affordable for individuals who don’t have access to group health coverage at work, by offering them competing private plans and government subsidies to help cover cost. Only 6 percent to 7 percent of Montanans are covered by individual policies.
Policies in Montana have seen substantial increases since the marketplace launched in 2013, although federal subsidies have increased proportionately for most of those buying on the marketplace.