Health insurers are proposing to raise Obamacare rates more than in the past — some by more than 70 percent — now that they are finally equipped with all the information they need to price those plans.
Plans wanting to raise rates by at least 10 percent next year posted the proposed increase online Monday, as required by the 2010 healthcare law. Insurers are allowed to raise rates each year, but they must publish significant increases ahead of time.
Insurers have sold plans in the law's new insurance marketplaces for two years in a row. But the difference in 2016 is that for the first time, they have a full year of claims data from enrollees that tells them how high or low to set the price tag.
"This is the first time that insurers have access to a full year of claims under the [Affordable Care Act] in order to project premiums," Kaiser Family Foundation analysts Larry Levitt, Gary Claxton and Cynthia Cox wrote in a blog post Monday.
Until now, insurers have had to mostly guess at who would enroll in Obamacare plans. If the enrollees tended younger and healthier, they could price plans lower. But if they ended up being older and sicker, prices would need to be higher.
And with year two of Obamacare enrollment concluded, there are more older enrollees than younger ones. Almost half were older than age 44, according to final enrollment data from the Obama administration.
Experts are predicting rates will escalate faster next year than in the two years prior, as insurers take a close look at who is enrolling in Obamacare plans to get a good sense of the overall picture.
While plans and rates vary by state, a look at rate increases published Monday on healthcare.gov shows many hovering around 10 to 30 percent in many states.
But there's also a sprinkling of even bigger hikes. Blue Cross wants to raise its most expensive "platinum" plan in Alabama by 71 percent next year. Aetna wants to charge 59 percent more for one of its small group plans in Virginia. Time Insurance Co. is proposing a 64 percent hike for an individual plan in Georgia.
Some states are seeing more plans significantly raise rates than others. In Oregon, 23 plans published rates, indicating they want to bump up the price next year by 10 percent or more. North Dakota, on the other hand, has just three plans that want to raise rates more than 10 percent.
The increases could fuel political controversy over the healthcare law, as Republicans charge that it accelerated growth in healthcare costs instead of reining it in. Later this month, the Supreme Court could aggravate the problem of healthcare costs by blocking insurance subsidies in a majority of the states.
The Obamacare plans are intended primarily for Americans who don't have access to employer-sponsored health coverage and aren't eligible for Medicaid, the federal healthcare program for the poor.
The national group representing insurers quickly jumped to their defense Monday when asked about the big increases. Clare Krusing, a spokeswoman for American's Health Insurance Plans, said there are many reasons for the increases — including taxes and fees and the fact that more insurers are phasing out plans that do not comply with Obamacare's rules.
"Premiums cannot be viewed in isolation," Krusing said. "It's critical to look at the individual market dynamics that impact how much consumers pay for their health care coverage and the factors, like provider consolidation and exploding prescription drug prices, that drive up premiums across the country."