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Health Insurance Rates Could Increase On Federal Exchange

About a dozen Florida health insurance companies have announced plans to sell policies on federal insurance exchanges, as dictated by the Affordable Care Act.

Starting October First, Floridians who don’t have insurance through their jobs will be able to shop for health plans through an online marketplace. Those plans will come with income-based tax credits to offset the costs. But according to Wences Troncoso with the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, people shopping for insurance on the exchanges could be in for a bit of sticker shock:

“We’re roughly seeing a 30-40 percent premium increase on average in the individual marketplace, and we’re seeing a 5-20 percent premium increase in the small group marketplace, although some plans in the small group place, have seen a small decrease," he said during a Tuesday meeting of the Florida Health Insurance Advisory Board.

According to a report issued by the Government Accountability Office, the cheapest insurance plan currently available in Florida for a single, non-smoking, 30-year-old man is $624 a year, with a $10,000 deductable. That person could be in for an increase on the exchange.

Even though Florida isn’t running a state-based exchange, insurers still have to file rate increases with the state. But Laura Goodhue, Executive Director of the consumer health group Florida Chain, says it’s a mystery why Florida-based health insurers plan to charge higher rates. And she wonders: higher compared to what…?

“Plans sold in the health insurance market place offer value for your dollar. So you can go to the doctor of your choice, make sure you have preventive care with no additional co-pay, and a minimum level of benefits. These are new insurance products. So if they’re saying costs are increasing, it’s hard to say [why], because you don’t really have an apples-to-apples comparison.”  

Many of the plans soon to come through the insurance marketplaces are not the same plans in effect now, and could include additional benefits.

It's not known what Florida insurers are basing their rate increases on, because the information is off-limits to the public right now. The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation says it plans to release more information on the rate requests on its website.

The Florida rate hike requests come as states including New York, Maryland and California are reporting significant drops in what insurance companies will charge customers in their state-run exchanges.  Still, there’s no guarantee the companies will get the hikes they’re asking for. Under a change in state law, it’s now up to the federal government to approve or deny any rate increases.

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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