Higher BCBS Premiums In Store for Alabama (NFIB)

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Premiums for Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) individual policies on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchange could increase by double digits in 2018. BCBS is the only Alabama insurer offering ACA policies.

Given Congress’ failed attempts to repeal the ACA, as well as President Trump’s claims that he will let the insurance law implode (by, among other things, ending federal funding of the cost-sharing reduction program that provides lower-cost premiums to low-income people), there has been increasing uncertainty and instability in the insurance market.

AL.com reported on portions of BCBS’ company statement about their requested rate increases: “The average rate increase included in this filing is 15.7 percent affecting over 190,000 members and assumes the Cost-Sharing Reduction (CSR) program will not be federally funded. The range of rate increases for these products is 2.0 percent to 21.3 percent.” A silver lining: This is lower than the approved rate increases of 24 percent in 2016 and 36 percent in 2017.

The BCBS statement, according to AL.com, also noted that if Trump instructs the IRS to reduce enforcement of or increase exemptions for the individual health insurance mandate, it expected fewer healthy customers to purchase insurance, which would further increase costs for remaining insureds.

This continued uncertainty about federal healthcare policy has also caused Alabama officials to abandon plans to move many of the state’s Medicaid patients to a managed care program operated by regional care organizations. This plan, in the works for five years, was designed to rein in costs and improve patient outcomes by focusing on regular checkups and preventive care to limit expensive emergency room visits later. Gov. Ivey noted that since Medicaid circumstances have changed, the state’s approach to reforming the program must change as well.

Given all these stops and starts, it’s no wonder that health insurance is the sixth biggest concern for Alabama small business owners, according to a poll conducted by Womply. The survey showed that 39 percent of small businesses said a repeal of the ACA would be very positive for their companies, 11 percent said it would be somewhat positive, 6 percent said it would be very negative, and 17 percent said they did not know.