TN regulators OK big Obamacare insurance hikes

Tennessee regulators have approved the full amount of the rate increases requested by the three health insurers still offering exchange plans under ObamaCare, pushing up rates by the biggest amount since the program began three years ago, reports the Times-Free Press.

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, the state’s biggest health insurer, will raise individual rates by 62 percent in 2017, or nearly double the 36 percent rate increase adopted this year by BlueCross. Small group rates in the marketplace exchange will rise by only 6.5 percent, however.

Cigna got state approval to raise its individual rates for its ObamaCare plans by 46.3 percent, while Humana got the OK for a 44.3 percent jump in premiums for individual plans next year.

The increases for the marketplace plans were the biggest of the rate increases approved by the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance, according to an announcement released this morning.

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the chairman of the Senate health committee, said the increases prove that ObamaCare is not working. Alexander said the record increases under the program for 2017 are “only the most recent proof that Obamacare is spiraling out of control.

…The Department of Health and Human Services, which administers the Affordable Care Act for the the Obama administration, said 85 percent of Tennesseans qualify for some type of federal subsidies to buy the individual exchange plans. As a result, the typical Tennessee household is paying only about $2 a month more than last year for coverage after the federal subsidies are included in the overall costs.

For off-marketplace plans, not included in the ObamaCare exchange program, health insurance rates will still rise by double digit levels for many Tennesseans and will outpace inflation for nearly all insured persons.

Aetna doesn’t offer marketplace plans, but its other individual health plans will see a 14.1 percent jump in premiums in 2017. Aetna’s rates for small employer groups will rise only 1.6 percent, according to the rate schedules adopted by the state.

State regulators approved a 17.3 percent increase in individual rates for Freedom Life and a 33.86 percent increase in individual rates for TRH Health.

Further from The Tennessean:
The rate approvals, while a tough decision, were necessary to ensure that consumers around the state had options when open enrollment begins in November, said Julie Mix McPeak, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee is the only insurer to sell statewide and there was the possibility that Cigna and Humana would reduce their footprints or leave the market altogether.

“I would characterize the exchange market in Tennessee as very near collapse … and that all of our efforts are really focused on making sure we have as many writers in the areas as possible, knowing that might be one. I’m doing everything I can to prevent a situation where that turns to zero,” McPeak said to The Tennessean.