Health insurance providers have begun to report their projections for what premiums for small businesses and individuals will look like in 2014. The consensus among the nation’s largest carriers is that the new healthcare law, which contains numerous provisions set to take effect next year, will contribute to an increase in premiums for many consumers.
The new law will prohibit carriers from adjusting premiums based on health history, and significantly inhibit their ability to adjust rates based on age. These changes will affect not only individuals, but also small businesses that pay premiums determined in part by employee health history and age. The Department of Health and Human Services has argued that the new healthcare law will “make healthcare coverage more affordable and accessible,” but many providers are saying otherwise.
As debates over the healthcare overhaul continue to rage, major providers have worked with brokers and agents to prepare consumers for what to expect in terms of changing insurance costs. The nation’s largest provider, UnitedHealth Group, presented its projections last month. They indicated that small business rates could increase by as much as 25-50 percent next year. Premiums for individuals who buy their own coverage plans could increase by up to 116 percent.
UnitedHealth Group’s leader of employer and individual insurance business, Jeff Alter, says that his company’s projections are a “high-end scenario.” Formal price proposals have yet to be filed with regulators, but brokers are reportedly preparing for rate hikes. John Lacy, vice president of group benefits at Bouchard Insurance, says carriers are training brokers to “brace our clients.”
Blue Cross & Blue Shield reported projections to brokers last week. The projections were a 40-50 percent increase in premiums for individuals. Aetna, another major carrier, projected a 29 percent climb for small business rates at a broker advisory council last fall.
Carrier projections being made public is only the latest event in a three-year sequence which constitutes the healthcare reform debate. Last week, six Republican members of the House Energy and Commerce committee requested that insurers release independent analyses of the new law’s effects on costs. While most larger companies are unlikely to be significantly affected in 2014, small businesses are likely to notice changes sooner rather than later.
Mathews, Anna Wilde. “Health Insurers Warn on Premiums.” The Wall Street Journal, 3/22/13.