2016 rate increases average 4%

health care costs in dollarsObamacare rate increases in California will pretty much follow last year’s script, officials say.

Covered California announced an average hike in premiums of 4 percent, just under 2015’s 4.2 percent.

“This means the majority of Covered California consumers will either see a decrease in their health insurance premiums or an increase of less than 5 percent if they choose to keep their current plan,” Covered California said in unveiling the healthcare rate increases for 2016.

There were, however, significant differences based on where the healthcare services were to be provided. North California consumers are looking at price hikes averaging 7 percent. In the two regions for the Los Angeles area, increases for those who stay in their current plans is 1.8 percent.

Unionization and the amount of competition between healthcare providers are considered factors in the differing rate increases.

“Health care is local,” Lee said.

As in 2015, critics of the Affordable Care Act had predicted significant rate hikes. That is true for some states, but not in California, considered a leader in Obamacare.

“This is another year of good news for California’s consumers and further evidence that the Affordable Care Act is working,” said Covered California chief Peter Lee.

At a press conference Monday, Lee blasted “Chicken Littles who said the sky would fall once again.”

UnitedHealthcare Benefits Plan of California will be one of two new providers for 2016. UnitedHealthcare is the largest service provider in the nation. It will operate in 2016 in regions 1, 9, 11, 12 and 13. Also joining is the new outfit Oscar Health Plan (regions 16 and 18).

Here is the list of Covered California providers selected for 2016.

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

Covered California encouraged consumers to shop around using its cost-estimate tool, which will be updated Aug. 3.

Of the 944,000 people who were could renew their coverage for 2015 through Covered California, 94 percent stayed in the same plan that they were in last year.

Enrollment for 2016 begins Nov. 1 and runs through Jan. 31. The open enrollment period is shorter, by design.

The rate picture will help those who buy insurance directly from carriers as well:

“Since Covered California requires health insurance carriers to offer the same products at the same prices both inside and outside Covered California’s marketplace, all individuals seeking to buy health insurance benefit from these rates,” the state Obamacare operation pointed out.

Consumers who seek insurance in the private marketplace but aren’t eligible for state subsidies often can save time by dealing directly with carriers.

Covered California said its “successful enrollment of more than 1.3 million active consumers resulted in a good ‘risk mix’ and gives Covered California the negotiating power of one of California’s biggest health insurance purchasers.”

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