AP

US health insurers raise rates to match increase in usage

Jul 18, 2022, 11:31 PM | Updated: Jul 19, 2022, 4:21 pm

FILE - Registered nurse Sandra Younan sets up a new intravenous line for a patient under her care a...

FILE - Registered nurse Sandra Younan sets up a new intravenous line for a patient under her care at Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center in Los Angeles on March 11, 2021. California officials, on Tuesday, July 19, 2022, announced health insurance rates would increase an average of 6% for the 1.7 million people who purchase coverage through the state run health insurance marketplace, Covered California. Health insurers in individual marketplaces across 13 states and Washington D.C. will raise rates an average of 10% next year. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, file)

(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, file)

SACRAMENTO, California (AP) — After putting off routine health care for much of the pandemic, Americans are now returning to doctors’ offices in big numbers — a trend that’s starting to show up in higher insurance rates across the country.

Health insurers in individual marketplaces across 13 states and Washington D.C. will raise rates an average of 10% next year, according to a review of rate filings by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

That’s a big increase after premiums remained virtually flat for several years during the pandemic as insurers seek to recoup costs for more people using their policies, combined with record-high inflation that is driving up prices for virtually everything, including health care.

The rates review included Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont and Washington.

“We’re at a point in the pandemic where people are using health care that they may have put off before,” said Larry Levitt, executive vice president for health policy with the Kaiser Family Foundation. “We have a double whammy right now of people using more care and inflation throughout the economy.”

In California, state officials announced Tuesday that rates would increase an average of 6% next year for the 1.7 million people who purchase coverage through Covered California, the state-operated health insurance marketplace. That’s a big jump after years of record low increases, when rate increases averaged about 1% in the past three years.

Increased use of health plans was the biggest reason for the increase, accounting for four percentage points, according to Jessica Altman, executive director of Covered California.

“That is really the consistent message that other states are seeing as well, and even more so than California,” she said.

About 14.5 million people purchased individual health coverage through state marketplaces this year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

That’s a small portion of the total number of insured Americans, as about 155 million people get their insurance through their employer-sponsored coverage. But Kaiser said the filings for the individual plans are more detailed and publicly available.

The annual open enrollment period for when customers can shop for and buy 2023 coverage starts this fall. That’s the main window each year when people on the individual market can buy coverage or change plans.

How much people will pay for coverage depends on a variety of factors, including where they live and what type of plans they choose.

The rate increases come as Congress debates whether to extend financial help for consumers through the American Rescue Plan — the $1.9 trillion economic aid package Congress passed last year to combat the economic impacts of the pandemic.

The American Rescue Plan included significant funding to keep health insurance premiums low for people who purchase coverage through state marketplaces.

California receives about $1.7 billion annually from that funding to make sure no one paid more than 8.5% of their household income on monthly premiums.

If that assistance expires at the end of this year, about 3 million Americans — including 220,000 Californians — would likely drop coverage because they will no longer be able to afford it, according to an analysis by Covered California.

Without guidance on whether Congress will extend the assistance next year, some insurers have reacted by proactively raising rates in anticipation of people dropping coverage. The uncertainty accounted for half a percentage point of California’s 6% increase, Altman said.

California officials have lobbied hard for Congress to extend the financial assistance through the American Rescue Plan. In general, the price of health insurance premiums depends on who is buying coverage. If its mostly sick people, the premiums are more expensive. If more healthy people buy them, the premiums cost less.

Altman said California has managed to keep its rate increases below the national average in part because more healthy people are buying coverage through Covered California than most other states.

She said that’s in part because of a California law that taxes people who refuse to purchase health coverage. But she said it’s also because of subsidies that keep premiums low so more people can afford them.

Altman said not extending the federal financial assistance would price some people out of coverage and “is the core outcome to be concerned about here.”

“That would be a big step backwards,” she said.

___

Associated Press health writer Tom Murphy in Indianapolis contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Photo: A delegate wears a hat with pins during the Republican National Convention Monday, July 15, ...

Christine Fernando, Steve People and Jill Colvin, The Associated Press

Rep. Walsh speaks for Washington as cheering GOP delegates nominate Trump for president

Cheering GOP delegates formally nominated Donald Trump for president at Monday's Republican National Convention kickoff.

5 days ago

Photo: Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, right, points toward Republican presidential candidate former Presi...

Jill Colvin, Julie Carr Smyth, Steve Peoples and Zeke Miller, The Associated Press

Trump picks Sen. JD Vance of Ohio, a once-fierce critic turned loyal ally, as his GOP running mate

Donald Trump named Sen. JD Vance of Ohio as his running mate, choosing a onetime critic who became a loyal ally.

5 days ago

trump assassination...

Ayanna Alexander, The Associated Press

What to know about Trump assassination attempt and the investigation into the shooting

Authorities want to know how a shooter was able to get on top of a roof so close to where former President Donald Trump was speaking and open fire.

5 days ago

Photo: Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is surrounded by U.S. Secret...

Julie Carr Smyth, Jill Colvin, Colleen Long, Michael Balsamo, Eric Tucker and Michelle L. Price, The Associated Press

Trump heads to convention as authorities investigate motive, security in assassination attempt

Trump called for unity and resilience after an attempt on his life added fresh uncertainty to an already tumultuous presidential campaign.

6 days ago

Photo: President Joe Biden speaks from the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Sunday,...

Will Weissert and Zeke Miller, The Associated Press

In primetime address, Biden says country must not go down road of political violence

President Joe Biden says “we can’t, we must not go down” the road of political violence in America after the attempted Trump assassination.

6 days ago

Photo: President Joe Biden speaks at a news conference following the NATO Summit in Washington, Thu...

Zeke Miller, Seung Min Kim, Lisa Mascaro and Colleen Long, The Associated Press

Biden says during news conference he’s going to ‘complete the job’ despite calls to bow out

Biden used his highly anticipated news conference to deliver a defense of his policies and batted away questions about his ability to serve.

9 days ago

US health insurers raise rates to match increase in usage