The vast majority of more than 1 million Florida Obamacare customers will pay about the same or less in 2018, state regulators said Tuesday, but about 7 percent without government subsidies could pay a whopping 45 percent more.
Insurers more than doubled their 2018 increases filed just a few months earlier, with some citing the administration’s reluctance to continue billions in “cost sharing” money that president Donald Trump has called “bailouts” for insurers.
Most consumers with a benchmark “silver” plan “will not see an out-of-pocket change, as the federal premium subsidy will also increase to absorb this extra cost,” the state’s Office of Insurance Regulation said in a statement.
In fact, a family of four earning $53,000, as well as an individual earning $27,000, may see a slight decrease in their out-of-pocket health insurance premium in 2018, officials said.
Only customers who buy Affordable Care Act marketplace plans and get no government subsidy — fewer than one in 10 in Florida — potentially face the full premium increase. And they will have off-marketplace options that could be significantly less expensive, officials noted.
Florida’s largest health insurer, Jacksonville-based Florida Blue, said it has close to 1 million customers on ACA market plans. About 66,000 of them have silver plans without government subsidies, with about 19,000 of those in South Florida including Palm Beach County. They potentially take the worst hit if premiums go up 38 percent for a Florida Blue plan, or an average of 44.7 percent for a half dozen companies offering plans on the ACA exchange.
Florida Blue officials urged those consumers to check “off-marketplace” plans once the enrollment period begins in November because they might find a significantly better deal.
The big rate increases, still awaiting final federal approval, “will look surprising on the face of it, but in fact most, if they take care to understand their individual situations, should not see a large out-of-pocket change,” said Penny Shaffer, market president in South Florida for Florida Blue.
Still, the 45 percent jump makes for an eye-grabbing headline, even as GOP Senate leaders concluded once again Tuesday they do not have the votes to repeal or overhaul the law.
“Years before the Trump Administration came to office, Obamacare’s double-digit rate increases and onerous mandates have been squeezing the pocket books of families in Florida,” said U.S. Health and Human Services press secretary Caitlin Oakley. “Under Obamacare, premiums for individual healthcare plans available in Florida surged by more than $2,400. Floridians are once again facing skyrocketing costs and plummeting choices because of Obamacare’s fundamental failures.”
Opponents of the health law make other points: As of March 15, 93 percent Florida residents who bought health insurance on the federally facilitated exchange received a premium tax credit subsidy. That still left about 100,000 Floridians on the exchanges who don’t currently receive any subsidy and thus potentially face the full impact of rate increases.
Then there are the penalties for not having insurance: In 2015, nearly 535,000 Floridians paid $250 million in penalties to the IRS for the right to go without Obamacare. And approximately three-quarters of Florida’s counties are projected to have two or fewer insurers offering coverage on the exchange during the upcoming plan year.
An average of 45 percent is more than double what Florida insurers were asking for 2018 just months earlier. Why?
Many insurers’ filings now assume the Trump administration cannot be counted on to continue billions of dollars in cost-sharing payments to help consumers reduce co-pays and deductibles. President Trump has called these “bailouts” for insurers. Yet in this case, squeezing the balloon in one place just increases other government subsidies and may actually increase the net amount taxpayers pay for Obamacare in 2018, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
The administration is also shortening the sign-up window to six weeks for 2018, slashing 90 percent of the advertising budget to tell consumers about the marketplace and reducing money for in-person assistance to get coverage. All of that will likely reduce the number of people who enroll and affect the rates of those who do sign up, insurers figure.
Rate increases for 2018
State-approved premium increases for Affordable Care Act marketplace plans. More than 90 percent of Florida consumers will see little difference in what they actually pay each month after government subsidies, though those with government aid could face the brunt of higher prices.
1 Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Florida Inc. 38.1%
2 Celtic Insurance Co. 46.1%
3 Florida Health Care Plan Inc. 26.5%
4 Health First Commercial Plans Inc. 39.3%
5 Health Options Inc. 36.0%
6 Molina Healthcare of Florida Inc. 71.2%
Source: Florida Office of Insurance Regulation