Insurer spells out how much Trump-fueled uncertainty hikes premiums

Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina sent the rate hike request to state regulators Thursday. "Unfortunately, the lack of CSR (cost-sharing reductions) funding significantly increases the rates for all ACA (Affordable Care Act) customers".

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City announced Wednesday it is exiting Obamacare in 2018, possibly leaving almost 19,000 Missouri residents without coverage option.

On the surface, this hike-along with news that Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City is abandoning the ACA marketplace altogether, leaving twenty-five Missouri counties without an Obamacare insurer-lends credence to Republican claims that the health care law is "collapsing" and in a "death spiral".

"If the federal funding continued", Blue Cross notes, "we would have filed an average increase of just 8.8 percent for 2018".

Blue Cross has sought double-digit rate increases since the first year ACA-compliant insurance plans began being sold on a federal marketplace in 2014. "The lack of funding requires us to provide coverage without receiving payment". "Through 2016, the company lost more than $100 million in this market, which is unsustainable.This decision is necessary at this time, but we'll continue to work with federal and state legislators to identify solutions that will stabilize the individual market and bring costs down for our members, the community, and Blue Cross and Blue Shield Kansas City", says Danette Wilson, President and CEO of Blue KC. In an interview with The Economist, Trump said he would cut off the cost-sharing reductions (CSRs) - payments that reimburse insurers for providing discounted out-of-pocket costs to help those with low incomes afford insurance.

CBS North Carolina's Justin Quesinberry asked Riley if even that rate would still hurt customers. As long as subsidies remain approved - there has been rumor that subsidies would disappear if Obamacare is rolled back - low-income families would still qualify for premium assistance from the federal taxpayer.

In the past Blue Cross has justified higher premiums due to an increases in the cost of medicine and fees paid to physicians.

"I think that as a doctor and as a healthcare consumer and as a patient, we have to do our very best to partner with one another and work together within the system, albeit flawed", he said.

The rate hike is a proposal. But the company said that the uncertain future of the ACA could determine whether or not Blue Cross will offer plans in North Carolina next year.

The N.C. Department of Insurance must review the request, but has generally approved close to the full requested increase in previous years.

A tax on health insurers also accounted for part of the proposed increase, officials said.

  • Larry Hoffman