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Insurers prepare to file 2015 rates -- and, say healthcare watchers, increase them

Kaiser Health News story

With the results sure to affect politics as well as pocketbooks, health insurers are already preparing to raise rates next year for plans issued under the Affordable Care Act.  Url

But their calculation about how much depends on their ability to predict how newly enrolled customers – for whom little is known regarding health status and medical needs -- will affect 2015  costs.    

"We're working with about a third of the information that we usually have," said Brian Lobley, senior vice president of marketing and consumer business at Pennsylvania's Independence Blue Cross. "We've really been combing the data to get a first look."

At stake are price increases that buyers on the federal exchange, healthcare.gov, and other online marketplaces will encounter when they get renewal notices later this year. Forecasting success or failure could also affect whether insurers stay on the exchanges, a key pillar of the health overhaul.

The official 2014 enrollment period closed at the end of March for most consumers. But  carriers selling medical plans on healthcare.gov must file initial 2015 rate requests with federal regulators in late May or June -- even though they have little idea about the health and potential costs of their newly enrolled members. Deadlines also loom for state-run exchange filings.

WellPoint, the biggest player in the online exchanges, is already talking about double-digit rate hikes for 2015. Such increases would give ammunition to Republican critics of Obamacare before the November elections.

Analysts' expectations vary, but nobody is predicting decreases. Read more. 


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