State: Average premiums to increase in marketplace

ANN SANNER Associated Press Published:

COLUMBUS (AP) -- Ohioans buying health coverage through the federal marketplace could see a 13 percent increase in average insurance premiums next year compared to this year, state insurance officials said Thursday, though the numbers are not final.

Small businesses also could have their average monthly rates rise 11 percent, according to early insurance rate filings with the Ohio Department of Insurance.

The agency released details Thursday of proposed premiums from insurers that want to offer plans in the new insurance exchanges created by President Barack Obama's health law.

For 2015, the proposed average premiums were $374.42 per month compared to $332.58 per month for the same coverage last year, the state said. For the small group market, average premiums were $446.78 compared to $401.99 in 2014.

It's unclear what consumers will encounter. The figures are averages. Some premiums could be lower, while others could higher.

Few states have provided rate increases, and those that have vary considerably, said Gary Claxton, a vice president with the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan organization that analyzes health policy issues.

The state's figures also do not take into account federal subsidies or other factors that could change the price.

At least 154,668 Ohioans picked plans in the marketplace this year, according to enrollment data released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services at the beginning of the month. And 85 percent are getting financial help to pay their monthly premiums.

Those individuals shopping for 2015 plans could see more competition. Sixteen companies want to offer plans, while 12 are selling this year.

Republican Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, the state's insurance commissioner and a vocal critic of the federal health law, blamed the Affordable Care Act for driving up costs.

"Continued and unnecessary headwinds out of Washington are making it more difficult for job creators, hard-working Ohioans and their families to purchase health insurance," she said.

A spokesman for the federal Health and Human Services Department said consumers in the individual market regularly faced double-digit premium increases annually before Obama's law. She cautioned that it was the beginning of the process.

"As we saw last year all across the country, proposed rates were a high water mark and final rates were often lower than initially proposed," said HHS spokeswoman Erin Shields Britt in an emailed statement.

The state's insurance department said final rates for next year won't be available until August, after the agency approves them.

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