Calif. premium hikes at 4 percent

Obamacare in California logo - health exchangeFears of big increases in Obamacare premiums in California apparently were unfounded, as hikes for 2015 appear to be just over 4 percent.

Covered California, the state Obamacare operation, said; “The vast majority of Covered California consumers will see low increases in their health insurance premiums” for the year, with some seeing slight increases or even decreases in monthly costs.

The statewide weighted average was put at 4.2 percent.

“As we move into our second open enrollment and first renewal for many Californians, we are glad to see consumers have a real choice, with affordable options in all regions,” Covered California chief Peter Lee said.

Covered California said its team of negotiators “actively engaged in vigorous back-and-forth with insurance companies to keep increases at a minimum.” It said “some health insurance plans will offer expanded provider networks,” in response to consumer complaints that they had trouble finding doctors who would accept Obamacare patients.

Actual rates can be determined using Covered California’s “Shop and Compare Tool.” The rates apply to coverage purchased through the state exchange, which typically is used by consumers who qualify for subsidies.

Not surprisingly, Democratic leaders were quick to cheer news of the small rate hikes:

House minority leader Nancy Pelosi said: “The low rates achieved through Covered California’s tough negotiating give Californians the confidence of knowing that their newly affordable health insurance isn’t going anywhere — and some plans are becoming even more affordable, with average premiums that are 8.5 percent lower than current rates.”

Nancy Pelosi speaker of HouseOf ongoing GOP efforts to undo healthcare reform, Pelosi (pictured) said: “Republicans should stop trying to dismantle this historic progress, and come together to strengthen and improve the Affordable Care Act for years to come.”

The U.S. House voted July 30 to authorize its leader to sue President Obama for overstepping his authority in enactment of the Affordable Care Act. No Democrats supported the move and five Republicans opposed it.

House Speaker John Boehner said in announcing the lawsuit, “In 2013, the president changed the health care law without a vote of Congress, effectively creating his own law by literally waiving the employer mandate and the penalties for failing to comply with it. That’s not the way our system of government was designed to work.”

U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., said that before this year’s launch of health care exchanges under Obamacare, consumers “were at the mercy of double digits rate increases year after year”

“We passed health care reform, leading to some of the smallest premium rate increases and greatest amount of coverage ever, while Republicans are suing the president of the United States to try to take your health care away,” Rep. Miller said.

“The evidence clearly shows that the Affordable Care Act is working for millions of Americans, making health insurance coverage more accessible and more affordable.”

Meanwhile, Covered California unveiled the 10 health insurance companies to offer coverage via the state health exchange in 2015. “All 10 were in the program for 2014 and submitted bids to return to the exchange for 2015 coverage.”

The 2015 Covered California companies are:

  • Anthem Blue Cross of California
  • Blue Shield of California
  • Health Net
  • Kaiser Permanente
  • Chinese Community Health Plan
  • L.A. Care Health Plan
  • Molina Healthcare
  • Sharp Health Plan
  • Valley Health Plan
  • Western Health Advantage

Rates are subject to approval by regulators.

All of the companies are offering optional additional dental coverage for children and teens. Insurers selling healthcare via the Obamacare organization in California were required to offer the children’s dental coverage as of next year. Pediatric dental coverage currently is offered as a standalone policy via Covered California, at extra charge. As of 2015, it will be embedded in all family healthcare policies, the board decided in January.

Children’s dental care is one of the essential healthcare benefits under the Affordable Care Act, but states can offer the coverage separately from the private insurance it sells under Obamacare. In 2014, five of the Covered California companies offered the so-called pediatric dental plans, which actually cover people up to age 19.

Covered California “will later announce adult and family dental options,” which would be new for 2015.

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