Obamacare rates going up in Nebraska next year

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LINCOLN, Neb. — Premiums for Obamacare health insurance plans sold in Nebraska will go up nearly 11 percent next year — one of the biggest hikes in the nation— according to preliminary rates released by the state Insurance Department.

That’s after Nebraska experienced some of the biggest premium hikes in the nation after the launch of the Affordable Care Act for people buying their own health insurance, most likely because insurance was cheaper here than in states that had already enacted Obamacare-like laws. Nebraska’s rates went up 74 percent, according to aForbes study.

Now they’re going up again.

“Under the federal Affordable Care Act, it appears that resulting health insurance costs will be increasing for most Nebraskans,” Bruce Ramge, director of the Nebraska Department of Insurance, said in a press release.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska’s rates will go up a whopping 19.5 percent on average, according to a rate sheet compiled by the insurance department.

The company blamed Obamacare-mandated benefits, higher use of medical services, guaranteed issue requirements and Obamacare-related taxes and fees for the hefty hike. Obamacare requires insurance companies to provide 10 benefits covering things like mental illness and substance abuse and shifts the cost of insuring older, sicker people onto younger, healthier people. And people cannot be denied coverage due to health problems.

“We realize that the premium increase on the individual side of our business is substantial, and we don’t want to create undue hardship on our customers,” Blue Cross vice president Dan Alm said in a press release. “However, the medical losses we are seeing on individual plans, which are driven by usage of medical services and costs of those services, are some of the highest we have seen in years.”

Last fall, Blue Cross allowed policyholders whose individual health insurance plans were canceled to keep their noncompliant plans for one more year. Alm said that was good for members, “but it turned out to have a higher impact on premiums than we anticipated due to much higher claims than expected.”

The director of Nebraska’s chapter of Americans for Prosperity immediately pounced on the news, saying Nebraskans can’t afford that kind of rate hike.

“These findings are not all that surprising,” AFP Nebraska State Director Matt Litt said. “But nonetheless this just proves that we need to make sure our legislators know how we feel about Obamacare. AFP will continue to educate our neighbors on the effects of Obamacare and we will work harder to get Obamacare repealed.”

Obamacare supporters say health insurance rates have been going up for years, but President Obama promised premiums would go down by an average of $2,500 per year, per family.

Nebraska’s rates will be reviewed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Four companies sell insurance on the federally operated exchange in Nebraska: CoOportunity Health, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska, Coventry Health of Nebraska and Time Insurance Company, which is new to the exchange.

CoOportunity Health, a federally funded cooperative, proposed premiums that are a 10.7 percent increase.

Open enrollment for ACA plans is from Nov. 15 through Feb. 15.