Premiums will rise an estimated 8.4 percent on average next year for people who use the state’s health insurance exchange in the pricing region that includes Stanislaus County.
The planned increases, announced Tuesday by Covered California, are less than the 13.2 percent statewide average for 2017 and the region’s average jump of 10 percent this year. They still need regulatory approval.
Many consumers could reduce their premiums if they compare the various plans offered by insurance companies, Executive Director Peter Lee said in an online video.
“If they shop, if they look and buy the best deal in their area, in the same design, almost 80 percent can lower their premium or only have an increase of less than 5 percent,” he said.
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The state created the exchange as part of the federal Affordable Care Act of 2010. The act, better known as Obamacare, has large premium subsidies for many enrollees.
The pricing region includes about 66,000 people in Stanislaus, San Joaquin, Merced, Mariposa and Tulare counties. About two-thirds have coverage this year from Anthem Blue Cross, which will raise premiums by an average of 8 percent. The rest are under Kaiser Permanente (6 percent average increase), Blue Shield (18.5 percent) and Health Net (23 percent).
Several people commented about the increases on the Modesto Bee’s Facebook page.
“I’m 60 … going on 61,” Brian Arak posted. “I’m using this insurance left and right. Of course it’s going to rise.”
Stephanie Gonzalez said of the statewide average hike, “Nothing but greed. How many millions or billions are these companies worth? They don’t need more, they just want it and they’ll get it however possible.”
The 13.2 percent statewide for 2017 follows rises of about 4 percent this year and last.
One reason is the end of federal payments to insurance companies that helped with startup costs for Obamacare, Lee told The Sacramento Bee. He also cited higher costs for specialty drugs and a large number of sick people enrolling in Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield.
Lee said the premium hikes are not due to health insurer profits. “We kicked the tires hard. …. This isn’t about health plans making big buckets of money. It’s about rising costs of health care.”
The rates drew criticism from Health Access California, a Sacramento-based group that urged cost controls and other reforms.
“While these rates hikes aren’t as bad as the annual double-digit increases before the Affordable Care Act, that’s not much comfort to consumers whose don’t see their paychecks increase by the same percentage,” Executive Director Anthony Wright said in a news release.
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Covered California offers plan types ranging from Platinum, with the most coverage for medical bills, to Bronze, with the least. The exchange offered examples of how the 2017 changes will affect typical people in the region:
▪ A single 25-year-old with a Silver plan and an income within 150 percent of the federal poverty level now pays an average of $54 a month and gets a $204 subsidy. The payment will rise to $61 and the subsidy to $223.
▪ A single 40-year-old with a Bronze plan and an income within 200 percent of the poverty level now pays an average of $37 a month and gets a $211 subsidy. The payment will drop to $22 while the subsidy rises to $235.
Information about the various plans offered by the state’s health insurance exchange is at www.coveredca.com.
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