Some of the biggest health insurance companies in the state have filed notices of increases as high as 20 percent next year, and the state insurance commissioner is powerless to stop it.
Insurance commissioner Jim Donelon blames changes in state law and increases mandated by the Affordable Care Act.
Donelon said state insurance experts are now looking over the rate increase proposals from several companies, including Blue Cross-Blue Shield and Vantage, but he said unless state law changes, he can't do anything about them. Donelon said the increases are due to new federal mandates that require policyholders to buy more coverage and subsidize coverage for those who can't pay.
But the group Families USA which says it is "non-profit, non-partisan and works to achieve quality health care for Americans," says Louisiana policy holders are having to cover costs for the uninsured, due to the state's failure to accept Medicaid money, which would help subsidize health care costs for the poor.
"Ultimately, the hospitals have to increase the costs of everyone insured to make up for lost payments, and that results in higher premiums," said Families USA spokesman Ron Pollack,
"For the first time in the history of the country, the Affordable Care Act imposed a federal premium tax on health insurance premiums," Donelon said. "That's the first time the government has taxed health insurance premiums. It's adding to the cost about $50 a month."
State officials no longer have the power to deny rate increases after the abolition of the insurance rating commission seven years ago.
Donelon said he's tried to get the Legislature to give him the power to approve or deny increases, but so far, they have not.