Health Insurers in Idaho Request Premium Rate Hikes As High As 81%

Director of insurance says to stabilize the market and reduce rates, Congress should repeal and replace Obamacare

Getty Images
August 3, 2017

Health care insurers in Idaho have requested premium rate hikes as high as 81 percent for next year, according to the state's Department of Insurance.

The five insurers serving the individual market in Idaho are Blue Cross of Idaho Health Service, Mountain Health Co-Op, PacificSource Health Plans, Regence BlueShield of Idaho, and SelectHealth.

For all plans, insurers requested rates ranging from a low of 25 percent to a high of 51 percent for a combined average statewide rate increase of 38 percent. For Obamacare's popular Silver plan, the average rate increase among all insurers was even higher at 50 percent, with one insurer requesting a high of 81 percent.

"I am deeply disappointed and frustrated to share these rates," said Dean Cameron, who directs the department. "I understand how difficult it will be for Idahoans to afford reasonable coverage, especially those without a subsidy."

He noted that premiums for the Silver plans are significantly higher due to the uncertainty of Obamacare's cost-sharing reduction program.

"I call on Congress to either repeal the CSR requirement or fund the program," Cameron said. "That action alone would reduce the proposed increase by at least 20 percent on the Silver plans."

He also said that historically Idaho has had a large number of health insurers participating on the exchanges, but is seeing participation decline, with the Bridgespan Health Company completely exiting the exchanges and SelectHealth reducing their participation in some counties.

"The proposed rate increases demonstrate the need for changes to the federal law," Cameron said. "Idaho's congressional delegation has been responsive and responsible, but we must help them deliver the message to their colleagues."

"If Congress is unable to repeal or replace, I ask that they do the following three things at a minimum to stabilize the market and reduce rates: fund or repeal the CSR mechanism (estimated savings of 20%), fund High Risk Reinsurance Pools, similar to proposals in both bodies of Congress (estimated savings of 10% to 20%), allow true consumer choice of plans, similar to the Cruz amendment, either on or off exchange (estimated savings of 20% to 50% compared to ACA plans)," Cameron said.

In October of 2016, the Obama administration announced that premiums for 2017 would rise by double-digits. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, rate increases are a result of the increasing number of insurers experiencing losses on the exchanges.

"Nationwide, average Marketplace premiums for 2017 are increasing more than they have in the past two years," the Obama administration said. "For the median consumer, the benchmark second-lowest Silver plan premium is increasing by 16 percent this year, before taking into account the effects of financial assistance."