La. residents await decisions on health insurance subsidies; premiums

La. residents await decisions on health insurance subsidies; premiums

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - People in Louisiana who buy their own health insurance could see a big hike in their premiums, meanwhile a U.S. Supreme Court decision expected this month could make insurance too expensive for thousands in the state.

According the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, for the 2015 coverage period, the total number of people in Louisiana enrolled in insurance plans through the federal online marketplace known as was 186,277.

And now some insurance companies selling insurance through that marketplace seek premium increases from 12 to 24 percent.

"It will be harder for them to make that decision to decide, hey, I'm going to spend this larger amount on a premium on health insurance versus, hey, I'm going to buy food, pay for car, gas, car insurance, etc," said Susan Todd, Executive Director of 504 HealthNet.

UNO Economist Walter Lane, Ph.D., who is an expert in health care economics, said Friday that insurers are trying to adjust to the reality of who is actually buying insurance through the federal insurance marketplace.

"We have disproportionately sick people signing up, therefore health care, the cost to the insurance companies are higher than they predicted and therefore that's why we're seeing the insurance increases," Dr. Lane stated.

"Insurers are still trying to figure out who is this new market, who are these people who are enrolled, how sick are they? What health services do they need?" said Todd.

Enrollment for 2016 opens November 1.

Then there are premiums for policies sold in the private marketplace.

Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon says the average rate increase in Louisiana for individual policies for 2016 is 16-percent.

"I think it's just catching up because rate increases the last year were about 5.6 percent, they actually were lower than they had been for the previous decade, so the last two years we've seen very low increases."

"Prior to the Affordable Care Act premiums increased at about 10-percent per year," said Todd.

And by the end of the month the Supreme Court is to make a major decision regarding the health care reform law. After a challenge by opponents of the law, the justices will decide whether people who live in states like Louisiana that did not set up their own insurance marketplaces as part of health care reform, and who also receive federal subsidies to buy insurance through the federal marketplace should lose those subsidies.

"King versus Barwell is the wild card if they decide, you know, against the government then 34 states, including Louisiana all the subsidies would go away which means you would see enormous rate increases, it would basically destroy Obamacare," said Dr. Lane.

Still he is optimistic that the high court will not render a ruling that wipes out the subsidies.

"If that actually happens that just flushes the whole thing down the drain, but I can't believe that's going to happen," Lane stated.

The proposed rate hikes have not been finalized.

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