Obamacare plan customers should brace for sticker shock when the administration posts insurers’ preliminary rate requests for 2017 this week. Health plans are asking for sharp price increases, after suffering big losses on exchanges in the last two years. Regulators caution that these are preliminary requests and final rates could a lot different. Insurers cite rising drug costs and patients who utilize a lot of medical services for the price-hike requests, which range from 17 percent in New York, and more than 20 percent in Virginia, to 30 percent rate increase requests from Oregon’s largest insurers. Bye-bye bronze plans? Consumers on the lowest-tier “bronze” plans could see some of the biggest jumps in prices if preliminary requests are ultimately approved. In some cases, insurers are abandoning the low-premium offering altogether. A unit of CareFirst Blue Cross in Virginia said it will transition all of its bronze plan members to mid-tier, or so-called silver, plans in 2017. The switch will mean a 70 percent price hike for those customers, according to the company’s rate request filing. Bronze plans have been some of the biggest sources of losses for insurers because the low rates attract sick patients who cost more, but often drop coverage during the year. “Tons of people came in, got what they needed and left. And they ended up 20 percent – in some cases 30 percent – more expensive than those who came in and stayed,” said Dr. Martin Hickey, CEO New Mexico Health Connections, a nonprofit cooperative insurer.
Health Insurance Expert and CEO for Ameriflex, William Short joined Charly Butcher on “Fort Wayne’s Morning News” to discuss.