Many La. policyholders face big spike in health insurance premiums

For thousands of Louisiana policyholders who bought health insurance through the individual marketplace that was expanded under the Affordable Care Act, premiums are set to spike by double-digit percentages in 2015.

Walter Lane, Ph.D., Economics and Finance Department Chair at UNO, said private insurers filed the increases after a costly first go-round with the new federal system.

"They tended to get a lot more [customers] that were older and sicker, preexisting conditions. Those are very high-cost people. They didn't get as many of the younger, healthy people as they hoped they would be getting," he said. "A lot of people that got on insurance for the first time had pent-up demand. They went and got a whole lot of services done. So, this year, their costs are very high."

Lane said the situation could level off down the road. For now though, he said actuaries who are pricing for next year, are going off the recent information.

"People who have subsidies, it's not going to affect them at all, because their amount that they have to pay is based on their income. It's not based on the cost. What that means is, taxpayers will end up paying a lot more than we had planned on," Lane said.

Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon said the increases are concerning.

"The average for all rate increases - including those not made public under 10 percent - the average for next year is 12 to 13 percent, and that's running significantly higher than we've seen in recent years, and I think there are a number of significant reasons for that -- all having to do with the Affordable Care Act," he said. "We can review them. I can use my bully pulpit to criticize them, but I do not have the authority to stop them from going into effect."

Donelon said policyholders facing premium hikes may want to explore other plan options. The open enrollment period for coverage in 2015 begins Nov. 15.

"Folks can choose to take on a higher co-pay, higher deductible, less expensive plan, if they can afford it," he said.

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