Highlight on Idaho: Premiums are higher, but state retains five insurers on exchange

Health insurance rates are increasing by 24 percent in Idaho for 2017, according to the state’s Department of Insurance (DOI). The increases affect both individual and small group health plans and follows the trends seen across the country.

Rising premiums

On Idaho’s health insurance exchange, where 95,000 state residents are enrolled and 90 percent are eligible for a premium tax credit under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) (P.L. 111-148), consumers may chose form five carriers and 196 medical plans, depending on the part of the state. The DOI reported increases in all plans. Weston Trexler, DOI product review bureau chief, told KTVB that the growing premiums are driven by claims.

“Anytime that an insurance company is paying out more claims than premium collected, they’re operating at a loss,” Trexler said. “Claims in this new marketplace have been higher than the carriers originally expected.” Trexler also noted that costs for services and rugs go up every year, and health insurance premiums must change to account for the increase.

Rate review

The DOI stated that carriers filed initial requests for rate review in May but were allowed to submit revised requests based on federal risk adjustment payment requirements released in July. From there, the DOI took public comment and determined whether the requested rate increases were reasonable based on claims experience, premiums, network provider agreements, administrative, and other costs. Most carriers agreed to reduce their revised requests after they had been reviewed, and the DOI could not find the rate increases unreasonable.

“While other states have seen dramatic reduction in carriers participating on their health insurance exchanges, the good news for Idaho is that we continue to have robust choice with five carriers and 186 medical plans in Idaho with at least four companies in every county,” said DOI Director Dean Cameron. “More choice leads to more competition, which should lead to lower premiums.

HHS Deems Insurance Premium Hikes in 9 States Excessive

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has announced that health insurance premium increases in nine states are “unreasonable” under the rate review authority granted by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) (P.L. 111-148), which requires insurance companies to justify rate increases of 10 percent or higher.

The announcement was made after HHS determined, based on independent expert review, that two insurance companies have proposed unreasonable health insurance premium increases in Arizona, Idaho, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. The rate hikes would affect over 42,000 residents across these nine states. Sebelius has called upon these companies to immediately rescind their unreasonable rate hikes, issue refunds to consumers or publicly explain their refusal to do so.

New rate review report issued by HHS

Sebelius also released a new rate review report showing that, six months after HHS began reviewing proposed health insurance rate increases, health insurers have proposed fewer double-digit rate increases and states have begun to take an active role in reducing rate increases. In fact, since March 10, 2012, the justifications and analysis of 186 double-digit rate increases for plans covering 1.3 million people have been posted at HealthCare.gov, resulting in a decline in rate increases. In the last quarter of 2011 alone, according to the report, states have reported that premium increases dropped by 4.5 percent, and in states like Nevada, premiums actually declined.

In these nine states, the insurers have requested rate increases as high as 24 percent. HHS has deemed these increases unreasonable because the insurer would be spending a low percentage of premium dollars on actual medical care and quality improvements and because the justifications of the insurers for the premium increases were based on unreasonable assumptions.

It should be noted that most rates are reviewed by states and many states have the authority to reject unreasonable premium increases. In addition, since the passage of PPACA, the number of states with this authority has increased from 30 to 37, with several states extending existing “prior authority to new markets. The HHS report also shows that:

• Texas, Kentucky, Nevada and Indiana are reporting fewer requests for rate increases over 10 percent;

• California, New York, Oregon, and many others, have proactively lowered rate increases for their residents; and

• the rate review program has made insurance companies explain their increases, and more than 180 have been posted publicly and are open for consumer comment.