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Obamacare premiums take big jump in Pa.

Premiums for Pennsylvanians who buy individual coverage from the Obamacare online market will rise by an average of 33 percent, according to 2017 rates just approved by the Pennsylvania Insurance Department. Premiums for small group plans will rise by 7.1 percent.

For example, the lowest price silver plan available in Harrisburg region counties will cost $345 per month for a 21-year-old non-smoker. The same plan, sold by Geisinger Health Plan, cost $193 per month in 2016.

For a 40-year-old non-smoker, the cheapest plan, also from Geisinger, costs $441 per month, up from $247 in 2016.

Some other plans didn’t rise by so much, but they had higher premiums to begin with.

The rates apply only to be people who buy Obamacare policies on the federally-run online marketplace known as the exchange. That amounts to only about ten percent of the health insurance market in Pennsylvania, according to Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller. The rates don’t apply to people who get coverage through their job or don’t buy their coverage from the exchange.

Many people will be spared from the increase to some extent by Obamacare subsidies that cover part of their premium costs. About 75 percent of Pennsylvanians who buy coverage on the exchange receive subsidies, which are based on income. A federal spokesman said that, because of the subsidies, most Pennsylvania exchange customers will be able to find a plan for last than $75 per month.

In announcing 2017 rates, Miller further said the state is backing Highmark in its lawsuit seeking to force the government to make good on “‘risk corridor” payments, which were intended to help insurers during the early years of the exchange, when they were taking on many people with unknown medical histories who may have gone a long time without health care. The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, called for such payments, but Congress has refused to authorize them.

Last year, Miller pushed back against proposed rate increases from insurers, a move she said saved consumers about $80 million. This year, however, her department, which conducts its own analysis of what level of premiums are needed, in some cases approved premiums that were larger than the insurer’s request, according to figures released by the department.

Miller said in a news release, “Making sure the public is aware of these increases now is important to give consumers the time they need to make the best healthcare decision for both themselves and their families. However, these rate increases make it clear that Washington needs to move swiftly to address consumer needs under the Affordable Care Act. In particular, Washington’s refusal to live up to the law it passed and fund risk corridor payments to insurers that incurred higher claims than expected has led to large insurer losses and companies leaving the exchange. That is why I am announcing that the Insurance Department on Friday asked the Court for permission to file an amicus brief in support of Highmark, Inc. in its lawsuit to require the federal government to make these payments.”

The state recently announced Pennsylvania’s uninsured rate has fallen to 6.4 percent. Much of that is due to another part of Obamacare, the voluntary Medicaid expansion that was carried out in Pennsylvania, and which the states says now covers 670,000 people who had been uninsured.

People can begin shopping and enrolling in Obamacare plans on Nov. 1.

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