New Health Insurance Rate Hikes Partly Due to Healthcare Reform

Health insurers plan to raise premiums by as much as 20 percent or more in the coming weeks, in part due to new requirements under the healthcare reform law, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.

Aetna, some Blues plans and smaller carriers have asked for premium increases of 1-9 percent, which they claim would be needed to pay for new benefits under the law. In addition, many carriers are also seeking basic rate increases to cover rising medical costs, meaning some consumers could face total premium increases of more than 20 percent.

The new benefits under the reform law include elimination of the coverage caps, letting children stay on their parents' insurance policies until age 26, eliminating co-payments for preventive care and barring insurers from denying policies to children with pre-existing conditions.

The Obama administration had predicted the new benefits would raise premiums no more than 1-2 percent on average. The higher-than-predicted rate increases come just weeks before midterm elections in which Democrats risk losing their majority in the House and possibly the Senate.

The Journal tracked the following proposed rate increases:
* Aetna is seeking increases for new individual plans of 5.4-7.4 percent in California and 5.5-6.8 percent in Nevada after Sept. 23.
* Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon said the cost of new benefits under the reforms amount to a hike of 3.4 percentage points on average out of a 17.1 percent premium rise for a small groups.
* In Wisconsin and North Carolina, Celtic Insurance Co. said half of its proposed 18 percent increase comes from complying with the reform law.

Read the Wall Street Journal report on health insurers (note: this report is no longer available on the WSJ's website).

Read more coverage about health insurance rate hikes:

- For First Time, Employers Passing on All Health Insurance Increases to Employees

- Anthem Gets California's OK for Higher Rates, Having Backed Off Startling Rate Increase that Influenced Reform Debate

- AMA Study: Competition in Health Insurance Industry Disappearing

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