Idaho Braces for Health Insurance Rate Hikes

Last week the Idaho Department of Insurance released the proposed rate increases on health insurance and it is not good news for consumers. The Idaho Statesman reports that while not yet approved, the proposed rates reveal an average increase of 38%. What’s more, the benchmark Silver plans lead the pack with an average increase of a whopping 50%!

According to Dean Cameron, Director of the Department, as much as 20% of the increase is directly attributable to uncertainty caused by President Trump. Cost Sharing Reimbursements are provided by the Federal Government to insurance companies to help pay for health services to individuals making less than 250% of the Federal Poverty Level. President Trump has repeatedly threatened to end those payments which has caused insurance companies across the country to jack up the rates on the Silver plans that those payments directly affect.

Ironically, the President’s intermittent threats may actually help consumers and cost the Federal Government more money. The Advance Premium Tax Credits (APTC) that help reduce the monthly cost of insurance policies are based on the cost of the Silver plans. So, if the cost of those plans spike, as they are doing for 2018, then the amount of APTC available to consumers also goes up. President Trump’s attacks on the Affordable Care Act may inadvertently cause it to become even more popular n 2018.

While Idaho has more choice of companies in its exchange than some other parts of the country, one company has announced that it is pulling out of the exchange for 2018. Bridgespan, a sister company to Regence Blue Shield of Idaho, has announced that it will not offer any plans on Your Health Idaho, the Idaho exchange, in 2018. Here in North Idaho, Bridgespan saw an influx of business last year fueled in part by Blue Cross’ decision to change its network from the standard PPO model to a much more restrictive “modified” HMO. Those people who are currently on Bridgespan policies, and who are using Advance Premium Tax Credits (APTC) to purchase them, will have to find another company when Open Enrollment starts on November 1. Bridgespan is trying to get approval to let people keep their policies off the exchange. If approved by the Department of Insurance, that would mean those people could keep their Bridgespan policy but would have to pay full price for it without the benefit of APTC.

Although four companies offer policies on Your Health Idaho, only three are available in North Idaho: Blue Cross of Idaho, Mountain Health Co-op and PacificSource. Of the three, Mountain Health Co-op had the lowest proposed average increase of its plans at 25%, while PacificSource had the highest at 44%.

Open Enrollment has been shortened this year as well, running from November 1 to December 15. If consumers are going to make a change, it must be done within that period. Idaho’s individual health insurance customers will be well advised to be ready to shop carefully this year.