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Proposed health insurance rates settle down in N.H.

  • The Healthcare.gov website, assisting consumers in obtaining health insurance, on Oct. 25, 2016. (Richard B. Levine/Levine Roberts/Newscom/Zuma Press/TNS) Richard B. Levine/Levine Roberts



Monitor staff
Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Following last year’s large leap, health insurance rates seem likely to decline a bit in New Hampshire next year, at least partly a reflection in changes being made to the Medicaid expansion program.

Information on proposed rates through the health insurance exchange, HealthCare.gov, indicate that a middle-of-the-road plan under the Affordable Care Act would average 6.75 percent less next year than the current rate, declining to $470 a month from the current $504. Actual rates for all plans won’t be available until Nov. 1, the first day of open enrollment on the exchange.

The same three companies that currently offer plans are proposing to offer them again next year: Ambetter, Anthem and Harvard Pilgrim. They have until Sept. 25 to commit to selling plans on HealthCare.gov in 2019.

Jennifer Patterson, health policy legal counsel for the New Hampshire Insurance Department, said that a number of factors have played into last year’s leap in rates and this year’s stability.

“I think there’s a bit less uncertainty now,” she said.

One likely factor is the expansion of the Medicaid program. New Hampshire is unusual among states in that it provided coverage for this low-income population within the health insurance market, driving up costs for insurers and thus the premiums they charged. The state Legislature changed that this year, and in 2019 the expanded Medicaid population will be moved under the Medicaid program.

The proposed rates do not always reflect actual costs that will be paid since they do not include subsidies, which have been used by roughly 72,000 people through the individual market.

The rate filings made by Ambetter and Anthem were heavily redacted, but Harvard Pilgrim’s filing indicates that rates could have declined further if not for the removal of the individual mandate requirement, which penalizes people who don’t get insurance. That mandate was removed by the Trump administration as of Jan. 1, which means more healthy people are likely to skip insurance, making it more expensive for people who do get the insurance, the company said: “(We) estimated the change in risk score as members exit the market due to the weakened individual mandate.”

It’s too early to compare health insurance rates among states, until what is known as the second-level silver plan benchmark for each state is released, around the Nov. 1 date opening to the market.

Between them, the three New Hampshire providers propose offering 17 plans for individuals in 2019, two more than this year; and 12 for small groups, six more than this year.

All 26 of the state’s acute care hospitals are included in at least one of the insurance company’s networks, and most are in all three. Ambetter and Anthem have statewide networks in the individual market, while Harvard Pilgrim’s network excludes Carroll County.

Other moves that the Insurance Department says have helped stabilize New Hampshire’s individual market include providing flexibility in filing deadlines, more aggressive pursuit of any waiver opportunities, advocacy of funding the Cost Savings Reduction payments, and a commitment to do to providing certainty at the state level.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)