23% hike sought by Pa. health insurers for ACA policies likely to shrink

    (Bigstock/designer491)

    (Bigstock/designer491)

    Each year, health insurance companies file paperwork with Pennsylvania’s Insurance Department, laying out what they hope to charge for policies. Regulators then determine if the price increases are justified.

    For 2017, the average rate request for individual plans to be sold through the Affordable Care Act is up 23 percent, according to the newly released filings. For small group policies, insurers are requesting an average 7.9 percent increase.

    If history is any guide, however, the final rates won’t go up quite that much.

    “I want to emphasize they are proposed rates … they could change,” said Antoinette Kraus with the advocacy group Pennsylvania Health Access Network. “Individuals should prepare to shop for coverage, but the rates we end up with might be significantly lower than what’s proposed right now.”

    Last year’s average rate increase was just under 11 percent in the individual market, a lower rate than initially requested by the carriers.

    Next month, the Insurance Department will begin accepting public comment on the proposed rates, with a final decision scheduled for release this fall.

    For those who buy their own coverage in Philadelphia and its surrounding counties, only two companies will offer policies in 2017 through the marketplace. Aetna Health has requested a 17.2 percent average increase for its policies.

    Independence Blue Cross filed an average rate increase request for 19.9 percent for its Keystone Health Plan East individual policies.

    “The 2017 proposed rates for our Affordable Care Act plans reflect the changing market trends impacting insurers here and across the country,” wrote Independence Blue Cross in a statement. “The cost of health care is the biggest driver of health insurance premiums, and Philadelphia is one of the most expensive markets in the country.”

    UnitedHealthcare, the country’s largest insurer, is pulling out of Pennsylvania’s Affordable Care Act marketplace for individual policies after offering plans in previous years.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.