Obamacare: Fla. insurers seek average 17.7% hike amid court ruling


Fifteen health insurers want an average 17.7 percent increase in premiums for Affordable Care Act individual plans, Florida officials said Thursday — higher than last year’s approved average of less than 10 percent.

The news on rate requests comes as a federal judge ruled the Obama administration has been improperly funding subsidies designed to make Obamacare coverage more affordable for consumers. It marks the latest in a series of legal challenges — and a win for GOP House members. Administration officials said they are confident the ruling will be overturned on appeal.

In Florida, 15 companies also asked for an average 9.6 percent increase for small group plans, said Amy Bogner, spokeswoman for the state’s Office of Insurance Regulation.

The companies were not identified individually because they claimed trade secrecy, she said.

Florida Blue, also known as Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, appeared to request increases ranging from 5.22 percent to 11.6 percent in rates for four plans posted on HealthCare.gov and spotted by The Palm Beach Post shortly before they were taken down.

Company officials said the rates were not supposed to be posted and did not represent “the correct, final rates for Florida Blue.”

In August, Florida regulators said they approved a 9.5 percent average increase for health insurers in 2016, down from 13 percent a year earlier. The approved rates applied to 19 companies on and off Affordable Care Act exchanges.

At the time, federal officials hailed it as progress.

“Florida’s proposed rates for the 2016 plan year demonstrate that the Affordable Care Act is working to spur competition and transparency in the marketplaces, keeping premium increases to single digits and leading to affordable new choices for consumers,” Ben Wakana, press secretary for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said then.

U.S. officials said last week that Floridians really pay an average of $84 a month after tax credits for Affordable Care Act marketplace plans. That’s up only 2 percent from $82 last year.

Administration critics, however, say the system obscures big rate increases from insurers that others must cover.

“Premiums continue to skyrocket and are only being masked by higher costs on other consumers and taxpayers,” said Andres Malave, Florida communications director for the Obamacare-opposing group Americans for Prosperity.

Requested rates are not necessarily the increases that will be approved by regulators in coming months, though the numbers released Thursday point to industry aspirations above single digits for individual plans.

Thursday’s ruling from U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer will be put on hold while it is appealed, the Associated Press reported.

At stake is $175 billion the government is paying to reimburse health insurers over a decade to reduce deductibles and co-payments for people with lower incomes. House Speaker Paul Ryan said “the administration overreached by spending taxpayer money without approval from the people’s representatives.”

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said: “They have been losing this fight for six years. And they’ll lose it again.”

About 12.7 million people are covered through insurance markets created by the federal health law.

Most Floridians still get coverage from employer plans or government programs such as Medicare, but approximately 1. 7 million state residents selected Obamacare marketplace plans in 2016.

Of those, about 91 percent got tax credits to make premiums less expensive.

For them, the average monthly premium was $386 before credits, and $84 after, according to federal officials.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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