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Obamacare brings new coverages, higher premiums to Florida

UPDATE: An unnamed senior official from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a statement in response to today's state update on the health care law, mainly on the issue of rising premiums and the lack of statistics in the report:

"We are consistently seeing in states across the country that premiums are lower than expected.  In 11 states that HHS studied, premiums were on average almost 20 percent lower than what the Congressional Budget Office projected. We are confident that Florida’s premiums will be affordable, and that consumers will have multiple options in a competitive and transparent marketplace.  When the marketplaces open Oct. 1, consumers will be able to shop for the plan that best fits their budget and needs.  Without releasing the premiums, the statistics released today don’t provide consumers with any information on what they will actually pay in the marketplace."

ORIGINAL POST: A state health insurance advisory board received an update on the federal health care law today, including new projections on how premiums could change in the coming months.

Wences Troncoso, Florida's deputy insurance commissioner, told the panel that small group insurance plans have increased 5 to 20 percent, and some plans even decreased their premium rates. Individual health plan premiums increased more drastically, 30 to 40 percent on average. 

That is largely attributed to the portion of the law that requires new policies to be sold to eligible applicants regardless of their pre-existing medical conditions. Because these people are now guaranteed coverage, the state has dissolved the Florida Comprehensive Health Association. About 160 people who couldn't get insurance otherwise were participating in this plan, which hasn't allowed new members in since 1991 because of the high costs.

Other highlights from the presentation:

-11 companies have filed paperwork to state insurance regulators indicating they plan to participate in the federal health exchange being set up in Florida for individuals.

-5 companies have filed paperwork to state insurance regulators indicating they plan to participate in the federal health exchange being set up in Florida for small businesses. (This is separate from the state's health exchange for small businesses, called Florida Health Choices.)

-Insurance companies will continue to offer COBRA plans for people who are between jobs or need temporary insurance benefits, but those same people may opt to instead purchase cheaper coverages vias health exchanges.

-For two years, Florida will not review rate filings for health insurance companies and instead will shift much of that oversight to the federal government. 

-Insurers will send customers disclosure forms that outline how their policies are changing and how much of the new costs are attributed to the health care law.

(Click here for more information about the disclosure forms and state deregulation.)

During his presentation, Troncoso noted the federal government had already delayed the employer mandate provision of the law for a year. He said some are advocating for a similar delay of the individual mandate and related tax penalties, but no decisions have been made.

Click here to view Troncoso's presentation.