Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Health Insurance Premiums Could Rise 30 Percent for Some Kansans on Exchange

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Health Insurance Premiums Could Rise 30 Percent for Some Kansans on Exchange

Article excerpt

Premiums for some health insurance policies on the exchange could rise more than 30 percent next year, if requested increases are approved.

How much of an increase any household might see will vary, however, based on where in Kansas they live, how old the adult members are and whether they smoke. Subsidies for low- and middle- income households also might blunt the pain of the increases in some cases.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas requested an average premium increase of 37.8 percent, though how much each customer's premiums might increase will vary. BCBS attributed the increase to a 5.5 percent rise in costs, due to higher prices of health services and more usage.

"The Kansans who purchased these individual plans since 2014 were older, in general, than expected and required more medical services than anticipated," the filing said.

BCBS estimated premiums had fallen about 40 percent short of covering costs in 2014, and would fall short by about 32.8 percent in 2015. Insurers can't charge higher rates or deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions -- once a common practice -- so if they have a large number of unhealthy people in their pool, they take a financial hit.

Coventry requested a 29.7 percent average premium increase for one of its exchange plans and 33.2 percent for another. It said the request was based on a 9.2 percent increase in medical costs, largely through increases in using inpatient and outpatient services. It also estimated benefit and cost-sharing changes under health care reform would increase premiums about 1 percent.

Both Blue Cross and Coventry offer a traditional plan and a health maintenance organization plan through the exchange. UnitedHealthcare also has elected to sell on the exchange in 2016.

The Kansas Insurance Department decides whether to approve a rate request based on the cost of services and how much customers use; how much of the customer pool is estimated to be relatively unhealthy; claims and losses in the previous year; and taxes and fees the insurer has to pay. …

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