Four insurance companies submit rates for 2019 Georgia health exchange

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Four health insurers have submitted proposed rates to the state insurance department to offer coverage in next year’s exchange in Georgia.

The state agency, which must approve or reject the proposals, said Friday that it had not yet had time to study them.

The four companies – Kaiser, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia, Ambetter, and Alliant — each offered insurance in the exchange this year in Georgia.

If the four stay in the exchange, it would mean that consumers would have the same lineup to choose from next year, though it’s not yet clear what geographic areas each health plan is seeking to cover.

Premium increases are expected. In Virginia and Maryland, insurers are seeking a wide range of significant increases, from about 15 percent for some plans up to more than 91 percent for one Maryland PPO, Kaiser Health News recently reported. California said it expects premium hikes of 11 percent.

Georgia insurance officials last year gave approval to premium increases of more than 50 percent for the four insurers for 2018.

This year’s premium increases reflect the instability rocking the insurance exchanges, which provide health plans for individuals and families who don’t have job-based or government coverage.

The exchanges in the individual states were created under the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare. About 480,000 people bought coverage this year through Georgia’s exchange, which like most state exchanges is run by the federal government.

Quoted Friday in a Wall Street Journal article, Cynthia Cox, a director at the Kaiser Family Foundation, said many insurers’ ACA business nationally has moved into the black, after years of rate increases that have helped premiums catch up to costs.

The foundation found in an earlier analysis that insurers’ financial performance on plans sold to consumers improved sharply last year, achieving the best results since the ACA’s major market changes went into effect in 2014.

Still, insurers said they are braced for continued uncertainty in the ACA business, the Journal reported.

That uncertainly comes from several factors:

  • In 2019, the ACA mandate for people to have health insurance will end. (Congress voted last year to repeal the requirement.)
  • The Trump administration is opening the door to alternative types of coverage that insurers say could pull healthy enrollees out of ACA plans.
  • Georgia and 19 other states are challenging the ACA in court. And the administration has asked the courts to strike down key elements of the law, including the current protections for consumers with pre-existing medical conditions.