- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 3, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Health premiums for Americans are about to go through the roof, and even the vaunted Obamacare can’t help them.

Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Alabama is proposing a 28 percent increase; BC/BS of Pennsylvania wants to raise premiums by 30 percent; BC/BS of North Carolina hopes to jack prices by 26 percent. Illinois and Florida BC/BS’s have proposed increases of 28 percent and 22 percent, respectively. 

But it’s not just Blue Cross. United Healthcare in Florida wants to raise its rates for its Obamacare exchange by an average of 18 percent across the board. But brokered insurance would go up 31 percent and some locations could see increases topping 65 percent. In Texas, one provider wants a 32 percent increase for exchange-based plans, while another seeks a 30 percent hike.

More than 10 million people have signed up for Obamacare, with most getting subsidies from the government. But the huge increases proposed by health care providers means that the subisidies will soon be too little to provide relief for strapped taxpayers.

While President Obama promised that health premiums would go down if lawmakers passed Obamacare, providers say many of the people who have signed up for the program need costly health care, driving up costs. 

“We’ve seen a great pent-up demand for services,” Aaron Billger, spokesman for Highmark, a Blue Cross Blue Shield licensee offering plans in Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia, told CNN. Obamacare members have been using more healthcare than those that have private-employee-based insurance, he said.

North Carolina BC/BS said cancer, heart ailments, emergency room visits and medications led to its proposal to raise rates by 26 percent.

Although the rate hikes are just proposals at this point, providers often achieve much of what they’e looking for. The 10,000 pages of regulations associated with Obamacare end up giving wide latitude to providers, even though state boards have final say.

Still, Americans who do not qualify for the federal subsidies will be paying full price after the new rates go into effect, often just days before open enrollment begins. 

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