Most HIX consumers will incur steep premium hikes in 2015

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 - Insurance Premium Hikes

As the Department of Health and Human Services prepares for year two of the federal health insurance exchange (HIX), it recently announced plans for an automated re-enrollment process. Unfortunately, there are still lingering problems from the HIX rollout, as well as newly identified gaps in individuals’ coverage under some of the state exchanges. With problems abounding, states are beginning to release premium rates requested by HIX insurers for 2015, with the final decisions coming in the early fall. With little exception, rate increases will be seen across the board, forcing some consumers to make a choice between paying higher premiums to keep their current coverage, or switching plans to save cash. 

Contrary to one of the main promises of the new healthcare law, affordable care, many Americans will face significant premium hikes in 2015. All HIX participants in Vermont, for example, will be asked for higher premiums next year. And with the state moving to a single-insurer by 2017, there won’t be much they can do about it. MVP Healthcare has requested an average rate increase of 15.4 percent (with a range starting at 10.7 percent and rising to 18.3 percent) and the only other insurer in the state, Blue Cross Blue Shield, has requested a 9.8% increase.

Further down the East Coast, one of Maryland's largest insurers, CareFirst, is proposing premium increases of 23 to 30 percent for consumers with individual coverage. In New York, the average increase request by all of the state’s insurers is 12 percent, but a number of larger companies are seeking rate hikes as high as 19.8 percent for individual coverage.

So that no state is left behind, rate increases were proposed in Iowa for 14.3 percent, in Washington State for 14.2 percent and 12.5 percent in Oregon. Colorado's state premiums were left virtually unchanged.

Last November, the Manhattan Institute released an analysis conducted of premiums under the new plans coverage and came up with an average rate increase of 41 percent across the country. Their prediction may not be exact, but the trend was certainly on the mark. 

Claudette Lew is associate editor,