Iowa health insurance increases of up to 19 percent blamed in part on Affordable Care Act



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DES MOINES, Iowa — Less than 2 percent of Iowans will be hit by state-approved health insurance rate increases of as much as 19 percent that insurers blamed in part on requirements of the Affordable Care Act.

The Iowa Insurance Division earlier this week announced that it had approved 2015 increases averaging 8.7 percent to 19 percent for Iowans who bought policies from Coventry Healthcare, Wellmark Blue Cross & Blue Shield, or CoOportunity Health. The increases take effect on Jan. 1.

The department said the increases were partly justified by costs associated with the federal Affordable Care Act. Among the cost factors were requirements that insurers no longer deny coverage or charge extra to people with pre-existing health conditions.

Insurance Commissioner Nick Gerhart told The Des Moines Register (http://dmreg.co/1q85XFw ) that the rate hikes will affect about 50,000 of Iowa's 3.1 million people — less than 2 percent.

"Those numbers may mean a lot to the people who have those plans, but to the whole market, it's not that big of an impact," Gerhart said. Most premium increases were relatively small, Gerhart said, and he described Iowa's overall health insurance climate as stable.

CoOportunity Health President Cliff Gold on Thursday blamed a skewed risk pool for the average 19 percent rate raise it wanted for next year.

Wellmark Blue Cross & Blue Shield is being allowed to extend policies it sold before the Affordable Care Act banned insurers from discriminating against people with chronic health issues. So, Gold said, Wellmark got to retain relatively healthy customers, leaving companies such as CoOportunity with a sicker customer base than expected.

Wellmark Vice President David Brown said his company had to help its customers and that "it would have been unconscionable" for Wellmark not to take advantage of the federal offer to let insurers extend the old policies.


Information from: The Des Moines Register, http://www.desmoinesregister.com

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