- The Washington Times - Friday, May 30, 2014

Insurance regulators in Ohio say their residents can expect their premiums to spike by double digits on the federal exchange created for the state under Obamacare.

Individuals will see an average rise of 13 percent, while small businesses should expect an 11-percent increase for health plans sold in 2015.

The health exchange is a virtual marketplace where consumers, under the new health care law, can compare private plans and qualify for government subsidies that help them pay their premiums.

Among 16 companies filing to sell plans on the exchange, proposals for the coming year average premiums of $374 per month compared to $332 per month for the same coverage last year, according to the Ohio Department of Insurance.

“It’s bad news, no doubt, but it’s what we expected and it’s what the research we did in advance predicted would happen,” Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor, a Republican, said. “Ohio has traditionally had a very competitive insurance market which meant our rates were lower than a lot of other states. That means that Obamacare is hitting us harder and driving our costs up significantly.”

The increase plays into Republican claims that Obamacare will cause insurance premiums to skyrocket.

The Obama administration said there is good news embedded in Ohio’s announcement.

Four more providers are participating in the state’s marketplace next year, allowing customers to shop for the lowest price among competing insurers and, on the bottom end, pay less than the 2014 average so long as they are willing to switch plans.

Insurance commissioners must approve the rates before they are sold, and insurers who propose increases of 10-percent or more are subject to review by outside experts. And, it said, the premium numbers do not take into account income-based premium assistance offered on the exchanges.

“Before the Affordable Care Act, consumers in individual market regularly faced annual double-digit premium increases,” said Aaron Albright, spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

“This is just the beginning of the process and as we saw last year all across the country, proposed rates were a high water mark and final rates were often lower than initially proposed. We are very pleased to see that the number of issuers planning to offer Marketplace plans in Ohio has jumped by 25 percent,” he said.

But for now, Republican leaders in Ohio insist that the figures are a bad sign.

“Higher premiums will continue to put a strain on consumers and small businesses at a time when our state’s economy is showing strong signs of recovery and growth,” Ms. Taylor said. “Continued and unnecessary headwinds out of Washington are making it more difficult for job creators, hard-working Ohioans and their families to purchase health insurance.”

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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