- Associated Press - Thursday, June 4, 2015

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - More than 13,000 New Hampshire residents who purchased insurance under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul law could see double-digit premium hikes next year, under requests made by two insurers.

In preliminary filings, Maine Community Health is proposing premium increases of about 20 percent for its 10 plans, which currently enroll 4,565 people. Minuteman Insurance has requested increases ranging from 42 to 51 percent for plans that cover 8,933 people.

Altogether, nearly 47,600 people were enrolled in individual plans by the end of April, according to the latest statewide figures available from the New Hampshire Insurance Department. Sixty percent of them were covered by Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield. Neither Anthem nor Harvard Pilgrim have released their rate information but said their proposed increases are less than 10 percent.

Tom Policelli, chief executive of Minuteman, cautioned that the proposed increases are far from set in stone because companies will be updating their requests in July, and regulators will have the final say.

“This is the rough draft,” he said. “We’re one inning into a baseball game. I wouldn’t get too concerned about the final score.”

Both companies seeking the higher rate increases cited the influx of Medicaid recipients to the health insurance exchanges set up by the federal law as the chief driver of their requests.

Under the state’s expanded Medicaid program, adults making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty limit - about $15,900 a year - are now eligible for coverage either through the state’s managed care program for Medicaid or through a program that subsidizes existing employer coverage. Those who initially signed up for managed care, however, will be moved to private plans through the Affordable Care Act marketplace using federal Medicaid funds.

About 39,000 have signed up since enrollment began July 1, and that population tends to be sicker than the existing covered population, Policelli said.

“You’re mixing two very different groups of people,” he said. “That drives up costs.”

Kevin Lewis, chief executive officer of Maine Community Health, agreed.

“Based on the available data … we are estimating claims costs among the Medicaid expansion population that is 61 percent higher than the rest of the risk pool,” he said.

While other factors such as deductible levels and copayments contribute to what consumers pay for health care, Minuteman currently offers some of the lowest premium rates. For example, its average monthly premium for a “bronze” plan for a non-smoking 35-year-old is $186, compared to $217 from Anthem, $238 from Harvard Pilgrim and $258 from Maine Community Health. Plans are offered in four “metal levels” of coverage: bronze, silver, gold and platinum.

Anthem was the only company that sold health plans through the marketplace its first year. It was joined this year by Harvard Pilgrim, Minuteman, Maine Community Health and Assurant. The latter attracted only a handful of customers and won’t be offering plans through the marketplace next year.

Ambetter insurance from New Hampshire Healthy Families also will join for the first time.

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