October 21, 2014

Report predicts health care premium increases

Estimates released Tuesday on premium increases for individual health insurance plans are facing harsh criticism from supporters of the Affordable Care Act, one of which is calling them nothing more than an attempt to “scare and mislead the public.”

The numbers released by the state’s Office of the Commissioner of Insurance show likely cost increases for people buying coverage through a federal exchange. The estimates detail increases for three age groups in eight of the state’s largest cities. The smallest increase is about 9.7 percent for a 63-year-old in Kenosha, while the highest is just under 125 percent for a 21-year-old in Madison.

Robert Kraig with Citizen Action of Wisconsin is questioning the accuracy of those numbers, which he says the OIC fails to back up with any actual data to show how those conclusions were reached. Kraig says “they’re really vague, it’s hard to understand what they’re comparing the rates to.”

AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:23)

Kraig says a wide number of factors are going to influence what people pay through the exchanges, such as the level of coverage they purchase, health history, and whether they qualify for tax subsidies. Those credits alone, Kraig says, could reduce premiums by as much as 77 percent. However, he says there’s no indication those were considered by the OIC in reaching its estimates.

Kraig says the Wisconsin estimates are similar to numbers being released in other states that also have Republican administrations opposed to the Affordable Care Act. He says the projections of massive cost increases are intended to rally opposition to the healthcare reforms. He says it’s unfortunate that, at a time when the public is really hungry for good information about the options that will be available to them, “the administration, for ideological reasons, is just trying to scare them.”

In releasing the estimates, Insurance Commissioner Ted Nickel said rates will vary widely based on a person’s age and where they live, and acknowledged that federal subsidies will likely offset premiums for many people. Nickel also noted that the best indicator will be the rates individuals are quoted when enrollment through exchanges begins on October 1.