Highlight on Delaware: ACA rates increasing for Delawareans

Monthly premiums will increase 18 to 35 percent for Delawareans who purchase individual and small group health insurance on the health insurance marketplace in 2017. However the increase faced by individuals will depend on their plan and, in cases of individuals eligible for federal subsidies, the impact of the premium hike is limited because tax credits will increase as premiums rise.

Insurers

Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Delaware and Aetna Life Insurance Co. are the only two companies that will offer individual or small group plans to Delawareans on the marketplace in 2017. When requesting rate increases, Highmark asked for a 32.5 percent increase in individual plan rates—a demand 4 percent higher than the year before.  Aetna sought increases between 23.9 and 25 percent for individual plans. Although Delaware Department of Insurance Commissioner Karen Weldin Stewart negotiated lower rates with the insurers, CMS encouraged Stewart to accept the rate increases so that the insurers would not leave the marketplace. Aetna has pulled ACA plans from 11 other states. The acceptance of the higher rates was a calculated compromise to maintain exchange options for Delaware consumers. Even with the compromise, across the state, plan choices are limited. Between the two companies, there are 20 individual plans and 11 plans for small businesses in 2017.

Premium increases

The premium increases for individual plans vary from 18 to 35 percent. As an example of the cost increases, a 21-year-old nonsmoker could experience about a $64 increase. In other cases, the increases are more severe, for example, smokers over the age of 60 could pay over $300 more than they did in 2016. Consumers can compare rates at the Delaware Department of Insurance website. In the case of enrollees earning between 100 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL), tax credits are available to make the cost of insurance premiums more affordable.

Perspective

Despite concerns over the rate increases, HHS press secretary Jonathan Gold assured Delawareans that affordable plans will continue to be available, noting that many individuals will be able to select a plan that costs less than $75 per month.  Gold cautioned that “headline rate changes” can be misleading because “tax credits reduce the cost of coverage below the sticker price and shopping helps consumers find the best deal.”