After a very frustrating, strenuous and divisive attempt to overturn ObamaCare, the carriers had to make decisions and get plans and pricing ready for 2018. There are several big unknown factors that could significantly affect carriers, plans, pricing and consumers in the individual and subsidized markets. Will congress approve benefit subsidies, premium subsidies and/or do away with the Shared Responsibility Payments or penalties for not having qualified health insurance? Since we don't know the final answer, carriers are assuming the worst and pricing these changes into thier policies.
Carriers are finally releasing their "requested" rate increases for 2018. In Tennessee, Cigna is asking for a 42.1 percent average increase, while Blue Cross/Blue Shield wants a 21.4 percent increase. While those numbers are down from 2017 (Blue Cross/Blue Shield asked for and was granted a 62 percent increase last year), the marketplace is still unstable, according to Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), who represents the state's 7th congressional district.
She said it’s "no secret the individual marketplace is collapsing."
"It’s no longer a question of if it will fail, but when it will fail completely," Blackburn told Patient Daily. "These provisional increases are the latest in a long line of examples of why we need to repeal the ACA and address the real cost-drivers of health care and coverage."
"Coverage under the ACA is already unusable for far too many due to sky-high deductibles, premiums or never-ending co-pays." said the Congresswoman. "Now, I fear premiums will continue to rise until Americans are simply forced out of the market."
Insurers said that when they were requesting premium rates, they factored in uncertainty, particularly over cost sharing subsidies and whether the individual mandate will remain in place, the repeal of which could lead to more healthy people leaving the marketplace. However, they also cited increased medical costs and rising drug prices as a reason for the high premium requests.
The deadline for insurers to file their initial rate requests for 2018 was June 21. More rate requests from states may be made public throughout the rest of summer and into fall. However, final rates won’t likely be announced until later in the year.
It is important to note that BCBST is picking up the slack in Knoxville where Humana pulled out leaving no carriers to provide insurance to those residents. This will be the only major market where BCBST is offering individual policies.