Insurance Commissioner Karen Weldin Stewart issued the cost increase recommendations Tuesday afternoon.
The recommendation for a 22.4 percent increase in the individual market rate for Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Delaware is less than the company’s revised proposal for a rate hike of 33 percent. Aetna Life Insurance Company’s request for a 16 percent increase in the individual market rate was also approved.
Stewart has been unsuccessful in getting other insurance companies to enter the Delaware market. An increase in competition could help lower rates. “Insurers have been discouraged by our state’s high health care costs,” Stewart said in a statement announcing the 2016 rates.
She said the Blue Cross increase can be blamed in part on the Affordable Care Act. “Blue Cross franchisees across the country are making requests for increases of 25 percent or more, claiming the Affordable Care Act has unleashed pent-up demand by persons who have not seen a doctor for years,” Stewart said. “Regulators have been approving significant rate increases throughout the country.” In New Mexico, Blue Cross pulled out of that state’s health care exchange after it was denied a 51.6 percent increase.
Delaware’s approved rates were approved by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which has final authority on the rates.