By Kimberlee Kruesi /Associated Press
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Uncertainty from the federal government has caused health insurers to propose steep rate hikes for Idahoans who buy plans on the state-based exchange for coverage in 2018, state officials said Monday.
Idaho Department of Insurance Director Dean Cameron said threats from the federal government to stop funding key aspects of the Affordable Care Act are to blame for the rate hikes.
“I am deeply disappointed and frustrated to share these rates,” Cameron said in a prepared statement. “I understand how difficult it will be for Idahoans to afford reasonable coverage, especially those without a subsidy.”
On average, rates among the four insurers that sell plans on the Idaho exchange are proposed to go up 38 percent. However, SelectHealth of Idaho is seeking the highest overall rate increase with a 44 percent price spike to its plans. Montana Health Cooperative — an insurance provider based in Montana that also offers plans for Idaho residents — is seeking the lowest spike with a 25 percent rate increase.
Meanwhile, insurance companies want to increase the cost of the exchange’s most popular plan — known as the silver plan — on average by 50 percent.
About 100,000 Idahoans signed up for health coverage on the exchange this year, with most of those customers receiving a federal subsidy.
The department released the proposed rates on Monday. Insurers will now spend the next few months negotiating the finalized rates with the department. Idaho doesn’t have the ability to nix rate hikes from insurers, but it can deem rates unreasonable — a tool that has been used by state officials to help keep rate hikes at a minimum.
According to Cameron, President Donald Trump’s threat to end cost-sharing reduction payments — designed to trim out-of-pocket costs for lower-income people — has forced the spikes because insurers remain unclear if they’ll be on the hook to cover the payments.
The Republican-led Congress has struggled in its efforts to repeal Obama’s health care law, even as Trump has increased the pressure on lawmakers to do so. Last week, the Senate failed to pass a GOP bill that would have repealed former President Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement.
“I call on Congress to either repeal the (cost-sharing subsidy) requirement or fund the program,” Cameron said. “That action alone would reduce the proposed increase by at least 20 percent on the silver plans.”
While several states are struggling to ensure insurers carriers do not pull out entirely from rural areas, Idaho has successfully required marketplace insurers to offer policies in every county. For 2018, carrier participation dropped to four after Bridgespan withdrew from the exchange and SelectHealth reduced the number of counties plans would be available to purchase.