Advocates urge Illinoisans to comment on health plan rates

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The leading insurer on Illinois’ exchange, Blue Cross Blue Shield, is proposing increases for 2017 ranging from 23 percent to 45 percent for individual health-care plans, according to proposals released Monday. | AP file photo

Consumer advocates encouraged Illinoisans to make their voices heard Tuesday, one day after proposed insurance rate increases as high as 45 percent were made public for health plans sold in the state under the federal health care law.

Illinois released insurance companies’ rate increase requests for 2017 late Monday, making it one of the last states in the nation to reveal what insurers have requested.

As in many parts of the country, Illinois insurers want higher premiums for next year because they have taken significant financial losses under the health law. Enrollment has been lower than anticipated, new customers were sicker than expected and a government system to stabilize the markets had problems.

In 14 states analyzed by the consulting firm Avalere Health, the cost of an average-priced “silver” plan will rise 11 percent if insurers are allowed to adopt the rates they’ve requested.

In Illinois, Stephani Becker of Shriver National Center on Poverty Law said consumers can comment by email to the state’s Department of Insurance.

By law, Illinois regulators can’t reject rates outright, but they can negotiate with insurance companies. The Illinois Department of Insurance has until Aug. 23 to review the proposed rates.

“It’s important to ask state regulators to scrutinize the rates,” Becker said, and it’s “vital for insurance companies and the insurance department to know that consumers are monitoring this process.”

Becker suggested that consumers detail their experiences with their coverage and ask if the state insurance department is considering affordability and provider networks when looking at rates.

The leading insurer on Illinois’ exchange, Blue Cross Blue Shield, is proposing increases for 2017 ranging from 23 percent to 45 percent for individual health plans, according to proposals posted at Another insurer, Coventry Health Care of Illinois, proposed rate increases as high as 21 percent.

Harken Health Insurance Company has proposed a nearly 29 percent increase in individual premiums and Health Alliance Medical Plans Inc. proposed a more than 28 percent increase.

In a statement, Health Care Service Corporation, which operates Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, said that although no final decision has been made, the proposed rates are in line with those in many markets across the country. It added that while some carriers have chosen to exit the market, it is “working toward continuing to provide health insurance options for consumers in Illinois.

“However, that must be done in a sustainable way,” the statement said. “Premium rates must cover the anticipated health care needs of our members, and consumer protections exist in the way of rebates if a certain percent of premiums do not go directly to covering medical services and quality programs.”

Many who buy coverage through insurance exchanges created under the Affordable Care Act are eligible for subsidies or tax credits to offset costs. But people who make too much money to qualify for federal help will have to pay the full price of coverage.

Consumers will be able to shop around and possibly switch health plans for 2017 when open enrollment begins Nov. 1.

Illinois’ marketplace has been roiled by recent defections. UnitedHealthcare, the nation’s largest health insurer, is leaving after two years of minimal participation. And Chicago-based Land of Lincoln Health, a 3-year-old startup that sold plans throughout the state, collapsed after suffering heavy losses. Its 49,000 enrollees are looking for new coverage for the rest of the year.


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