Health Insurance Doubling for Some in Oklahoma

Rates increasing by 30 to 100 percent, Oklahoma insurance commissioner says


Insurance rates for some Oklahoma residents will be doubling under Obamacare, the Oklahoma insurance commissioner announced on Tuesday.

The cost of health insurance plans in the individual market will rise by between 30 and 100 percent, according to the commissioner John Doak’s statement.

“For some consumers, the cost of health insurance will increase significantly,” Doak said in the statement. “This is more proof that Obamacare will hurt Oklahoma families and businesses.”

The commissioner’s office blamed the rate increases on three different factors: insurance cannot turn down applicants with pre-existing conditions; the plans have to offer certain “Essential Health Benefits”; and the health care system is subject to more taxes and fees that are being passed on to the consumer.

“From an actuarial standpoint, this confirms the obvious,” Oklahoma Insurance Department chief actuary Frank Stone said in the statement. “Insurers must increase their premiums due to the additional requirements of Obamacare.”

The Department of Health and Human Services, which is implementing the exchanges, did not respond to a request for comment on the announcement.

Oklahoma is not the first state to announce rate increases. South Carolina, Georgia, Indiana, and other states have also announced significant rate increases for people buying insurance on the individual market.

Health care experts said the rate increases will hurt the law overall.

“I think it’s all part of the gradual unwinding of Obamacare and its ability to survive and do what the president wanted,” said Sally Pipes, president of the Pacific Research Institute.

The federal government has said that out of the 7 million people expected to sign up for insurance through the exchanges, about 2.7 million younger people need to sign up for the exchanges to be viable. Younger people tend to be far less expensive for insurance companies than older people, helping to offset the costs for others.

Pipes predicted that the rate increases will make it less likely that younger people buy insurance.

“Any marginal cost that somebody has to pay would be a disincentive,” said Ed Haislmaier, a health care expert at the Heritage Foundation. The part of the population that the administration is trying to insure “tends to be fairly indifferent to being insured,” he added, which is further complicating the problem.

The rate increase will hit hardest the people who now buy insurance on the individual market, Haislmaier said. The subsidies available to some people will offset the rate increases somewhat, Haislmaier added.

Some employers will also stop offering coverage to people and force them to buy insurance on the exchanges, Haislmaier said. These people will experience rate shock as well, even if their new insurance plan is cheaper, because they will have to pay the entire cost without any help from their employer.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is currently suing the federal government over part of Obamacare. Pruitt is arguing that the federal government cannot subsidize insurance bought on exchanges that the federal government is running in lieu of state government. Some experts have called this lawsuit the last best chance to stop Obamacare’s implementation.

Doak expressed his support for Pruitt’s lawsuit in the statement announcing the rate increases.

Andrew Evans   Email Andrew | Full Bio | RSS
Andrew Evans is an assistant editor at National Affairs and a former reporter for the Washington Free Beacon, where he covered government accountability and healthcare issues.