Virginia Filings Give First Look at 2015 Health Rate Increases

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Carriers Opting for Premium Hikes That Will Pinch Consumers’ Pocketbooks.

In the first look at how insurers plan to adjust prices in the second year under the federal health-care law, filings from Virginia carriers show they are opting for premium increases in 2015 that will pinch consumers’ pocketbooks but fall short of some bigger rate predictions.

The new premium proposals, detailed in official filings to the state’s insurance regulator, show health plans all opting for some increases.

The filings show insurers’ planned increases easily outpacing broader U.S. inflation, but shy of the much larger boosts some critics predicted.

For instance, the Anthem HealthKeepers Inc. plan offered by a unit of WellPoint Inc. said it would raise premiums by an average of 8.5% across its individual plans in Virginia, which cover about 110,000 people and are sold on the online insurance exchange set up by the health law, as well as directly to consumers.

The company says it needs to increase the rates to take into account the poorer health of uninsured people signing up under the health law this year and next, and their pent-up demand for services, as well as the costs of new fees under the Affordable Care Act.

Virginia is the first state to make rate proposals for 2015 public. A handful of others, including Washington state, are expected to follow as early as this week. In most parts of the country, health plan actuaries are still finalizing their proposals and the data won’t become available until late summer.

The Virginia filings show other health plans proposing rate increases ranging from 3.3% for Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Mid-Atlantic States, Inc., with around 10,000 members in the state, to 14.9% for CareFirst BlueChoice Inc., which said it had about 32,000 members. CareFirst said in its filing that it had seen the average age of its enrollees rise by several years. Neither WellPoint nor Kaiser immediately commented Sunday.

The Virginia filings come amid significant speculation about future premiums under the health law, which includes sweeping changes to the way insurance is sold to individuals who don’t have access to coverage through their employer or a government program.

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