North Carolina's largest health insurer said on Wednesday that 2015 rates will rise by more than 13 percent on average for buyers of individual Affordable Care Act policies.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina discussed the expected rate increases in a teleconference several weeks ahead of the Nov. 15 kickoff for the enrollment period for coverage starting in January.
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Blue Cross said rates would rise an average of 13.5 percent for 315,000 customers who enrolled this year in individual plans that comply with President Barack Obama's health insurance law. It cautioned that the actual increase for each person will be affected by factors including age, location and plan level.
As an example, the insurer said a 45-year-old nonsmoking man in the Raleigh area who didn't receive subsidies would see his monthly premium rise by about $57 to $421.32 per month on a typical individual ACA silver plan. Most customers, however, receive the subsidies.
"It is important for customers to understand their health care needs, update their information to get the subsidy amount they are eligible to receive and select an insurance plan with the level of coverage they want at a price that works for them and their family," said Patrick Getzen, vice president and chief actuary for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina.
Aside from the those policies, the insurer is maintaining pre-existing plans that don't conform to the Affordable Care Act's requirements but that customers wanted to keep. The Obama administration said in March that it was allowing a two-year extension for individual policies that don't meet the health law's requirements.
The insurer said its rates for those pre-existing individual plans will rise by an average of 13.4 percent for policies sold before the federal law was signed by Obama in March 2010. Individual plans sold by the insurer between then and October 2013 — when the health overhaul exchanges opened — will have rate increases of 19.2 percent on average.
Blue Cross said about 239,000 people were enrolled in those pre-existing individual plans in 2014.
One factor affecting premiums is how costs are spread among the mixture of people of varying ages and health care needs. Blue Cross said in a news release that the group buying its individual ACA plans was older than expected because many younger, healthier customers stayed in pre-existing plans.
"There needs to be a mix of customers within each category to balance risk and expected costs," Getzen said.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is the only insurer to offer ACA plans in all 100 of North Carolina's counties.
This story clarifies that Obama's health care law was passed and signed into law in March 2010.