Health insurance could see big hikes in 2019

Posted at 6:51 PM, Jun 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-08 14:27:44-04

According to the New York State Department of Financial Services, health insurance companies that sell to individuals are asking to increase premiums on average 24% in 2019.  Most of the companies seeking the rate increases also sell health insurance through the Obamacare exchanges like the NY State Of Health Marketplace.

You can see the proposed rate hikes here:

New York State is not alone.  Industry analysts predict large increases in Obamacare premiums across the U.S. in 2019.

The insurance industry is pointing the finger of blame at regulatory measures such as Congress and the Trump Administration dropping the penalty for people who do not have health insurance (individual mandate).  The industry fears that young, healthy individuals will drop coverage and leave health insurance companies stuck with an overload of sick people who need expensive care.

Increasing medical costs and competition from health associations, that offer cheaper plans with less coverage options, are also factors in the rate hike requests.

However, the number one reason for increasing healthcare costs are the large number of people who live unhealthy lifestyles, explained Pamela Pawenski, Vice President of Sales for Univera Healthcare.

Pawenski said Univera, like many health insurance companies, is offering new incentives to get people to make more of an effort to be screened, get proper medical/dental checkups, and change life habits from smoking, poor diets and lack of exercise.

People who have poor health cost health insurance companies more because medical problems are not detected until they have become very serious and expensive to treat.

For 2019, Univera is requesting a 2.9% increase in individual rates and a 1.63% increase in rates for small groups.  The request is much smaller than the NYS average of 24% because of strong competition in the WNY area between Univera, Blue Cross Blue Shield and Independent Health, said Pawenski.

In addition, all three big WNY insurers are 'non-profit,' meaning they do not have to seek bigger returns for shareholders like 'for-profit' health insurance companies need to, added Pete Kates from Univera.

7 Eyewitness News Reporter Ed Reilly has more in his report.


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