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Pa. insurers: ACA repeal could mean tripling of rates

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Health insurers in Pennsylvania are seeking single-digit hikes in insurance premiums, but those proposed increases could nearly triple if Affordable Care Act subsidies are terminated.

Information released by the Pennsylvania Insurance Department show that insurers are seeking a statewide average increase of 8.8 percent for individual plans and 6.7 percent for small group plans in 2018.

If lawmakers in Washington, D.C., make changes to the ACA's individual mandate or the law’s cost-sharing reduction payments, Pennsylvania's five health insurers serving the individual market likely would need to seek even larger increases, department officials say:

• if cost-sharing reduction payments were not made, they would need to request a statewide average increase of 20.3 percent;

• if the individual mandate is not enforced, they say they would seek a 23.3 percent rate increase; and

• if both changes occur, insurers estimate they would seek an increase of 36.3 percent, assuming they to participate in the market.

The U.S. Senate on Tuesday voted 51 to 50 to move ahead with debate on plans to repeal or reshape the Obama-era law.

Later that day, a repeal-and-replace proposal failed to pass by a 43 to 57 vote. On Wednesday, a "repeal-only" proposal, which did not include a replacement, failed in the Senate by a 45-55 vote.

It wasn't immediately clear Wednesday afternoon what the next step would be.

Rate filing process

For Pennsylvania's rate filings, however, the process is well defined.

Companies have until the end of September to commit to participating in the market for 2018, Insurance Department officials said, which is why Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller stressed "that the commitment to stability from the federal government is needed immediately," according to a statement from the agency.

Public comment on insurers' rate requests and filings will be accepted for 30 days and can be emailed to ra-in-comment@pa.gov.

The Pennsylvania Insurance Department also will hold in-person town hall meetings, starting next month, to discuss the rate review process and provide an opportunity for feedback:

• Aug. 3, 6:30 p.m. – Degenstein Library, 40 S. 5th Street, Sunbury.

• Aug. 14, 6:30 p.m. – Altoona Library, 1600 5th Avenue, Altoona.

• Aug. 30, 7 p.m. – Free Library of Northampton Township, 25 Upper Holland Road, Richboro.

• Sept. 6, 6:30 p.m. – Western Allegheny Community Library, 181 Bateman Road, Oakdale.

Additional dates and locations will be posted on the department’s Facebook page and at www.insurance.pa.gov as they are scheduled.

Final approved rates for 2018 plans will be made public in mid-October.

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Roger DuPuis

Roger DuPuis

Roger DuPuis covers Cumberland County, health care, transportation, distribution, energy and environment. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at rdupuis@cpbj.com. Follow him on Twitter, @rogerdupuis2.

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