Oklahomans who purchase health insurance policies next year from the leading insurer in the Affordable Care Act marketplace could face unsubsidized rate increases averaging 31 percent, Oklahoma Watch data research shows.
That’s how much Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma has asked the federal government to approve, on average, for all of its “Obamacare”-compliant individual health policies in 2016, according to an actuarial memo filed by the insurer. The proposal doesn’t apply to policies offered through employers.
Oklahomans experiencing rate shock will have at least two alternatives to Blue Cross: CommunityCare, a Tulsa-based provider of health maintenance organization (HMO) policies, and UnitedHealthcare, a big national insurer that wants to enter the Affordable Care Act market here for the first time.
They also will have opportunities to reduce their monthly payments even if they stick with Blue Cross, by considering different provider networks, policy types, and deductible and coinsurance options the company already offers.
“The big story is, rates are going up,” said Mike Rhoads, deputy commissioner of the Oklahoma Insurance Department.
Rhoads said the increases reflect several factors. Among them:
• Medical cost inflation is averaging about 6 percent to 9 percent across the board.
• Companies made inaccurate cash flow estimates for 2014 and 2015 and now have more data.
• Prescription drug costs were higher than estimated, partly because of expensive Hepatitis C treatments.
• Companies underestimated how much treatment Affordable Care Act policyholders would seek once they obtained insurance.
“They didn’t get the numbers right in 2015. They were guessing,” Rhoads said. “Every carrier I talked to had lost money.”
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