S.C. Department of Insurance expects health policy costs to rise

This article is from the Columbia Regional Business Report:

Staff Report
Published Aug. 5, 2013

The South Carolina Department of Insurance has estimated that health insurance rates in the soon-to-be-established federally facilitated exchanges will increase by 50% to 70% in the individual market and by 10% to 20% in the small group market.

The department announced Friday that it has completed its review of health insurance forms and rates for carriers that are seeking federal certification to sell in the exchange created under the Affordable Care Act.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service established July 31 as the deadline for carriers to submit changes to their federal applications.

“Due to a number of new federal requirements going into effect next year as part of the Affordable Care Act, consumers should plan for premiums to increase significantly,” said Ray Farmer, director of the S.C. Department of Insurance, in a news release.

Rate increases may be higher or lower than the estimated percentage increase based on the product chosen, age and smoking status, among other factors, Farmer said.

Additional expense
Columbia-based BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, which has the largest market share of insured people in the state, issued a statement saying that additions and changes required by the Affordable Care Act “add unavoidable, additional expense for our customers.”

“As a locally based company, we have the benefit of a long history of marketplace data on South Carolinians and their use of medical services. This information allows us to forecast rates with a high degree of reliability and accuracy,” the company said.

“With the actuarially sound data available to us we can create adequate and fair pricing, and we believe we have done that with our 2014 rates submission.

“However, as has been acknowledged by many stakeholders, it is still worth noting that health insurance rates must now also factor in additional benefit requirements, new federal taxes/fees, required changes in how we calculate rates and guaranteed issue of coverage,” the company said.

Farmer said the Department of Insurance is actively working with all carriers seeking approval of filings for products to be sold in the state.

Changing marketplace
“While the Affordable Care Act has added new challenges and uncertainties to the health insurance marketplace, our first priority remains ensuring that South Carolina consumers have access to the coverage they want and need,” Farmer said. “Changes at the federal level have pushed carriers to restrict or even discontinue coverage, and we have even had one of our domestics exit the market entirely.

“In this environment, our job is to do everything we can to make South Carolina an attractive place for insurers to write health insurance coverage so that South Carolinians have access to as many options as possible,” Farmer said.

Health insurance products also will be available in the private health insurance market outside the exchange, the Department of Insurance said.

The department continues to review insurance products that will be sold in the market outside the federally facilitated exchange and anticipates that its review of those filings will be completed within the next 45 days.