BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina proposes dramatic rate increase for 2018 Affordable Care Act plans | Your Health

If Congress fails to extend the discounts which significantly lower the amount of money Obamacare customers spend on their health care, Affordable Care Act premiums in South Carolina may jump by more than 33 percent next year, new federal data shows.

The hike, which was proposed by BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, hasn’t yet been approved by the state Department of Insurance.

But if it is approved, Charleston insurance agent Josh Dickerson predicted that adults and families with average income who buy insurance through HealthCare.gov will suffer most. 

“Basically, it’s going to hit the middle class worse than anyone,” Dickerson said. 

BlueCross BlueShield is currently the only company that sells Affordable Care Act plans in South Carolina, and the company’s proposed increase reflects broader industry unease. Insurers have been shaken by repeated attempts to repeal and replace the federal law, as well as recent threats made by President Donald Trump on Twitter to suspend the “cost-sharing reductions,” or “CSRs,” which make policies on the federal marketplace more affordable for low-income customers. 

“To remain as the lone health insurer in the South Carolina public exchange market BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina had to factor in the volatility of the marketplace, most expressly the continuing uncertainty of government funding of cost sharing reduction to insurers,” said Patti Embry-Tautenhan, a spokeswoman for the insurance company, in a prepared statement. 

Health insurance prices will vary based each plan’s benefits, as well as the customer’s age and address, she explained. But most people who qualify for financial aid through HealthCare.gov “will see an average increase of $12 or less in their premium” each month if the 33.4 percent rate increase goes through, she said. 

Insurance companies in other states, including BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee and Anthem in New Hampshire, have also proposed double-digit rate increases amid this uncertainty. Nearby in North Carolina, Blue Cross NC has proposed hiking its Obamacare premiums by nearly 23 percent next year, but explained in a press release that the “requested increase would have been 8.8 percent if CSR subsidies had been fully funded for 2018.”

S.C. Department of Insurance Director Ray Farmer said Affordable Care Act premiums in South Carolina will not increase by 33.4 percent next year if Congress votes to extend those CSR payments. 

“It could be a less dramatic increase,” said Farmer. “It begs Congress to address the issue.”

More than 183,000 South Carolinians are covered by Affordable Care Act policies and about 131,000 of them qualify for both premium assistance and the cost-sharing reductions. The federal government spends $7 billion a year on the CSRs, The Associated Press reported. 

The final rates for Affordable Care Act plans in South Carolina will be released by the Department of Insurance in late September or early October, Farmer said. Enrollment on HealthCare.gov opens Nov. 1. 

This story is developing. 

Reach Lauren Sausser at 843-937-5598. 

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