Fla. health insurers seek average 17.7% hike amid court ruling

medical dollarsFlorida regulators said Thursday that 15 health insurers have filed an average 17.7 percent increase in 2017 premiums for Affordable Care Act-compliant plans for individual consumers — requests above 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 that make Obamacare coverage more affordable for consumers. The latest in a long line of legal challenges marks a win for GOP House members. Administration officials expressed confidence it will be overturned on appeal.

In Florida, 15 companies 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 before they were taken down.

As The Post reported, company officials said the rates were not supposed to be posted and did not represent “the correct, final rates for Florida Blue.”

Last 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 — and that’s only up from $82 last year. It’s a 2 percent rise.

But administration critics say the system obscures bigger rate increases from insurers.

“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, though the numbers released Thursday point to industry aspirations above single digits for individual plans.

The 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.”

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