Insurance companies operating in the Washington state Obamacare exchange will reportedly raise their rates by as much as 26 percent, while rates in Virginia could go up by nearly 15 percent, presenting even more problems for the law that was sold in part on a promise that consumers would pay less for health care.
The proposed rate changes for 2015 in most cases must be approved by state governments. While the rates vary, they are generally an increase from previous years. More states will decide, but the Virginia and Washington insurance proposals are a sharp departure from President Barack Obama's vow that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act would lower the cost of health care.
“If you already have health insurance and you want to keep that health insurance, we will bring down premiums by $2,500 for the typical family,” Obama said as a presidential candidate in June 2008. “And we will prevent insurance companies from discriminating against those who need care the most.”
The Wall Street Journal reported that at least one Virginia insurer attributed the proposed rate hike to the mandates imposed by the health law. Meanwhile, the Seattle Times reported that in the six years before the establishment of the health care exchanges, 2007-2013, rate increases ranged between 9 percent and 18 percent.
If approved, the rate hikes will affect policy holders regardless of whether the companies sell their plan on Washington HealthPlanFinder, the state's online marketplace established to comply with the Affordable Care Act, according to the Seattle Times.
Among Washington state's 12 insurance companies, the lowest proposed rate hike is 6.8 percent, proposed by Molina Healthcare, compared to 26 percent proposed by Time Insurance. The newspaper said Time Insurance has relatively few customers in Washington.
In Virginia, the highest reported rate hike proposed is by CareFirst Blue Cross, which would go up by 14.9 percent, according to the Wall Street Journal. CareFirst has about 32,000 members in the commonwealth. The lowest proposed rate hike is 3.3 percent by Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Mid-Atlantic States, Inc., with about 10,000 members.
The rate hikes could also pose a political problem Virginia's Democratic Sen. Mark Warner, facing re-election this year.
“If we do not move forward on health insurance reform, premiums for Virginia families will continue to rise, employers will remain at a competitive disadvantage in the global marketplace, and federal budget deficits will go from bad to worse,” Warner said in a Nov. 29, 2009 press release when explaining his support for the then-pending measure.