Health insurers covering more than 155,000 Louisiana residents under “Obamacare” are planning rate increases ranging from 12 percent to 24 percent in 2016.
In records filed with the state Insurance Department, insurers say a number of factors played a role in the higher rates.
Humana expects more people will seek health care services under the Affordable Care Act and that many more will have chronic health conditions, said spokesman Mitch Lubitz. The cost for services and medications will be higher, Lubitz said.
“Another key factor behind rate increases is the price of new specialty drugs that are being created to treat serious diseases,” Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana spokesman John Maginnis said.
These products drove a 13.1 percent increase in U.S. drug spending nationally in 2014, the biggest jump in more than a decade, according to pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts.
“Addressing this cost trend is critically important to maintaining a workable health care system and safeguarding access and affordability for patients who need life-saving drugs,” Maginnis said.
One situation the insurers didn’t list as a possible factor is a pending U.S. Supreme Court ruling that could end Obamacare subsidies in Louisiana and 33 other states that didn’t set up an online insurance marketplace, instead relying on a federal marketplace.
Almost all of the 184,000-plus Louisiana residents who signed up for coverage for 2015 through the federal marketplace received some form of subsidy. The subsidies meant that 84 percent of enrollees paid $100 or less each month for health coverage.
Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies that seek double-digit rate increases must make those requests public.
The enrollment period for 2016 coverage is scheduled for Nov. 1 through Jan. 31, when people can sign up for or change health plans if they find a better one.
Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon said the average 2016 increase in Louisiana for individual policies is about 16 percent, well below what’s being reported nationally.
For example, Alliant Health Plans has proposed increasing premiums for some plans it offers by as much as 85 percent, according to The New York Times. The Tennessee BlueCross BlueShield has requested an average rate increase of 36 percent.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana requested double-digit increases for six Affordable Care Act-compliant plans, Insurance Department records show. The plans, which cover 125,668 people, would see increases ranging from 11.8 percent to 15 percent.
Louisiana Health Cooperative requested increases of 22.5 percent and 22.9 percent for two plans covering 14,480 people.
The following are other plans, their proposed rate increases, and the number of people covered:
Aetna Health Inc., 20.9 percent, 7,485 people.
Humana Health Benefit Plan of Louisiana Inc., 14.8 percent, 6,839 people.
UnitedHealthcare Life Insurance Co., 24 percent, 1,280 people.
Louisiana law doesn’t allow the Insurance Department to regulate health insurance rates, Donelon said. But the department can review the rates and pressure insurers to reduce them.
It’s too early in the review process to tell whether any of the filings are too high, he said. The department has just gotten the initial filings, and it may take weeks or months before those reviews are completed.
In 2014, he said, the department was able to get insurers to reduce premiums by more than $4 million.
Donelon said state regulation of health insurance — the most important insurance coverage — is needed more now than ever.
Ten years ago, Louisiana ranked 25th in the cost of health insurance, he said. Now, Louisiana’s health insurance premiums are among the 10 highest in the country.
And Blue Cross, the state’s largest health insurer, has become so dominant that the National Association of Insurance Commissioners considers Louisiana a “non-competitive marketplace,” Donelon said.
Follow Ted Griggs on Twitter @tedgriggsbr.