Hoping to avoid another political uproar over the Affordable Care Act, the administration is trying to persuade states to cut back big rate increases requested by many health insurance companies for 2016.
Some carriers say they paid out more in claims than they collected in premiums last year, so they lost money on policies sold in the new public marketplaces.
After finding that new customers were sicker than expected, some health plans want increases in premiums of 10 percent to 40 percent or more.
“Recent claims data show healthier consumers,” Kevin Counihan, chief executive of the federal insurance marketplace, said in a letter to state insurance commissioners. The federal tax penalty for going without insurance will increase in 2016, he said, and that “should motivate a new segment of uninsured who may not have a high need for health care to enroll for coverage.”
In addition, federal officials say, much of the pent-up demand for health care has been met because consumers who enrolled last year have received treatments they couldn’t get when they were uninsured.
But Scott Keefer, a vice president of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, which has requested rate increases averaging about 50 percent for 2016, says his company hasn’t seen an improvement in the health status of new customers.
Consumers will be able to avoid big rate increases by switching to lower-cost health plans next year, administration officials say.