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Insurance companies warn of premium hikes

March 22, 2013 at 11:47 AM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, March 22 (UPI) -- Insurers are telling brokers some healthcare premiums will rise in 2014 even though U.S. officials project lower rates overall under the Affordable Care Act.

The Department of Health and Human Services has projected lower premiums, along with an increase in the number of people with health insurance in the individual market -- from 15 million in 2011 to 35 million by 2016.

The cost estimates are based on a 2009 report by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

HHS says several factors, including competition among insurers, should help push premiums lower.

Some insurance companies have a different message.

They say rates will go up for many when major features of the healthcare reform law take effect in 2014, the newspaper said.

John Lacy, vice president of group benefits at the Clearwater, Fla., broker Bouchard Insurance, told the Journal insurers are advising brokers to "brace our clients" in advance of higher premiums.

UnitedHealth Group has said some rates for small businesses could rise 50 percent while rates for individuals could rise 116 percent, the Journal reported. Aetna Inc. told its national broker advisory council last fall rates for some individual plans would rise 55 percent on average while premiums for small businesses would increase 29 percent. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina told insurance brokers last week premiums on individual plans could rise 50 percent.

The ACA provides federal subsidies for lower-income people but those numbers are not reflected in insurers' projections on premiums, the newspaper said. Some consumers and businesses can expect lower premiums under the law, analysts say.

Insurance companies are expected to file proposed prices with regulators within the next few months, the Journal said.

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