12 Nebraska health plans propose double-digit increases

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - A dozen individual health insurance plans in Nebraska are proposing double-digit premium increases for next year, citing higher medical and prescription drug costs and greater use of services.

The proposed hikes would apply to individual plans sold on the federal health insurance exchange as well as individual coverage sold through brokers and agents.

UnitedHealthcare Life Insurance Company proposed one plan with a 10 percent increase, while Time Insurance Company is proposing 32 percent increase for one of its plans and 28 percent for another. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska proposed one plan increase of 12 percent and one of 16 percent. Coventry Health Care of Nebraska proposed increases for seven of its plans, the largest being 16 percent.

The rate proposals were posted online by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Rate increases were only disclosed on the website if they were proposed to grow by 10 percent or more. Specific coverage levels weren’t specified in the filings.

Insurers say the rates reflect averages and do not necessarily mean that a customer’s premiums will increase. Those that do could grow by more or less than what was shown online.

“The exact rate change will depend on what benefit plan the subscriber chooses, the number of members and their ages, where in Nebraska the subscriber is located, and which members use tobacco,” Coventry Health Care of Nebraska said in one of its filings to the Nebraska Department of Insurance.

The proposed rates were submitted to the department for review and approval, and are subject to change. Bruce Ramge, the department’s director, said the rates could be finalized in late August.

Other factors behind the increases include reduced payments from the Federal Reinsurance Program, a temporary program to help stabilize the market as the Affordable Care Act went into effect. The program is scheduled to reduce its payments to insurers in 2016 and will be phased out in 2017.

Individual health insurance policies are a relatively small slice of the overall market. Many more people are insured through an employer.

Open enrollment begins later this year.

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