Share This Page

Insurers to raise rates for Obamacare-linked policies

| Saturday, April 26, 2014, 8:15 p.m.

With the results sure to affect politics as well as pocketbooks, health insurers are preparing to raise rates next year for plans issued under the Affordable Care Act.

But how much depends on their ability to predict how newly enrolled customers — for whom little is known regarding health status and medical needs — will affect 2015 costs.

“We're working with about a third of the information that we usually have,” said Brian Lobley, senior vice president of marketing and consumer business at Pennsylvania's Independence Blue Cross. “We've really been combing the data to get a first look.”

At stake are price increases that buyers on the federal exchange, HealthCare.gov, and other online marketplaces will encounter when they get renewal notices this year. Forecasting success or failure could affect whether insurers stay on the exchanges, a key pillar of the health overhaul.

The 2014 enrollment period closed at the end of March for most consumers. Carriers selling medical plans on HealthCare.gov must file initial 2015 rate requests with federal regulators in late May or June — even though they have little idea about the health and potential costs of their newly enrolled members. Deadlines also loom for state-run exchange filings.

WellPoint, the biggest player in the online exchanges, is talking about double-digit rate hikes for 2015. Such increases would give ammunition to Republican critics before the November elections.

Analysts' expectations vary, but nobody is predicting decreases.

“We'll see rate increases in the marketplaces, but I think it's anyone's guess” about what the precise changes will be, said Sabrina Corlette, project director at the Georgetown University Center on Health Insurance Reforms. “It's like nailing Jell-O to a wall.”

The health law required insurers to accept all applicants this year for the first time without asking about existing illness. That reduces what they know about customers and raises the likelihood that they'll sign sicker, more expensive members who were previously denied coverage.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.