Tennesseans cannot afford 44 to 62 percent Obamacare price increases that will force them to make difficult decisions about their daily lives and their family budgets. They should not have to pay the price for a terrible health care law and the refusal by Democrats in Washington to see what is plainly obvious -- that Obamacare is failing. Sen. Lamar Alexander
The price of individual health insurance coverage will increase next year by a record amount in Tennessee after state regulators agreed to the full amount of the rate increases requested by the three health insurers still offering exchange plans under Obamacare.
But even with a 62 percent rate hike in 2016, the state's biggest health insurer is still evaluating whether to stay in the program, and Tennessee's insurance commissioner said Tuesday she worries about whether the state can maintain a competitive marketplace under Obamacare. U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the chairman of the Senate Health Committee, said the rate increases are too costly for Tennesseans, and Obamacare, at least in its current version, "cannot be allowed to continue."
BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, the state's biggest health insurer, estimates it will have lost nearly $500 million on its individual exchange plans by the end of this year. Even with the state allowing BlueCross to more than double its rates in three years, BlueCross officials said they are still studying whether it makes sense to keep offering Obamacare coverage in 2017 or abandon the program and leave much of Tennessee without any coverage under the marketplace exchanges.
"We continue to have concerns about uncertainties about the Affordable Care Act at the federal level and those concerns are leading us to keep all of our options open as it relates to participation in the 2017 marketplace," BlueCross Senior Vice President Roy Vaughn said Tuesday. "Despite ACA marketplace plans being a fairly small part of our business, they have continued to have out-sized losses and that is no longer sustainable. And from our standpoint, the Affordable Care Act is as risky as ever, if not more so for consumers and health insurers alike."
BlueCross in Tennessee debuted its individual marketplace policies in 2014 with the second lowest rates of any insurer in the country. But after capturing the biggest share of the market, the Chattanooga-based BlueCross lost $311 million in the first two years of Obamacare and raised its rates 19 percent in 2015 and 36 percent this year before requesting another 62 percent hike in premiums for next year.
After other insurers exited the market, state regulators agreed to allow BlueCross and other insurers to get their full requested rate increase for next year.
Cigna and Humana are the only two other health insurers in the marketplace exchange in Tennessee and both got approval Tuesday for rate increases of more than 44 percent for 2017.
"There are significant risks for these companies beyond the rates and premiums that we can control and the companies told us they were worried about their current footprint and they certainly weren't interested in expanding their footprint until the market stabilizes," McPeak said. ...