Affordable Care Act: Insurance company raises rates, then drops 112,000 patients

Blue Cross Blue Shield drops 112,000 patients — after 62 percent price hike

Blue Cross Blue Shield has lowered the bar — even for an insurance company.

The insurance giant announced this week that it was dropping 112,000 patients in Tennessee as part of its overall reduction in plans offered on the Affordable Care Act’s individual marketplace. To add insult to injury, Blue Cross Blue Shield just got approval to raise rates.

“The insurer won approval last month from the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance to boost rates by an average of 62 percent next year, doubling the rates for individual plans from where they were just three years earlier,” the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports.

Patients in Tennessee are suffering the worst consequences of the nationwide insurance assault on patients. In addition to Blue Cross Blue Shield dropping more than 100,000 patients, Cigna will raise its 2017 rates in the Volunteer State by 46 percent — with Humana raising rates by 44 percent.

State lawmakers in Tennessee are calling on Congress to make changes to the landmark health care law.

“Blue Cross’ decision is the latest canary in the coalmine,” said Tennessee State Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris. “This is the legacy of Obamacare – failure and collapse. When the Blues quit coverage, it should tell you something.”

Affordable Care Act: Patients face regional monopolies

Patients throughout the country, especially those that live in rural areas, now face the prospect of regional health insurance monopolies.

This summer, the Kaiser Family Foundation analyzed the fallout from insurance companies dropping coverage for millions of patients.

“We estimate that 2.3 million marketplace enrollees, or 19% of all enrollees, could have a choice of a single insurer in 2017, which is an increase of 2 million people compared to 2016,” the Kaiser Family Foundation noted. “Going into marketplace open enrollment in 2016, about 303,000 enrollees (2%) had a single insurer option.”

However, those figures don’t tell the full story. Most of the monopolies fall on rural counties — in areas where patients would need to drive hundreds of miles to obtain care. Up to a third of all counties in the United States will have only one option.

“Similarly, we estimate that the number of counties with a single marketplace insurer is likely to increase, from 225 (7% of counties) in 2016 to 974 (31% of counties) in 2017. Approximately 6 in 10 counties could have 2 or fewer marketplace insurers in 2017,” the Kaiser Family Foundation concluded. “The bulk of the increase in single-insurer counties is a result of the UnitedHealth exit, as the company was often the second insurer in rural areas.”

Map: Counties with Health Insurance Monopolies

The Kaiser Family Foundation has an interactive map available on its website. The tool shows just how patients are seeing limited choices in health insurance under the Affordable Care Act’s individual marketplace.

Check it out here.

Advice for Patients: Don’t automatically re-enroll in health insurance

Patients that are lucky enough to keep their plan might have an impulse to quickly re-enroll. But, Consumer Reports is advising patients not to automatically re-enroll in the same health insurance plan. That’s because the same plan isn’t the same plan year-to-year.

Insurance companies commonly drop doctors and drugs from their list of approved treatments.

“Given the distaste for researching health-insurance plans, it’s not surprising that the Aflac study found that nine out of 10 (PDF) workers stick with the same benefits year after year,” explains Consumer Reports. “And just less than 60 percent of Obamacare enrollees stayed in the same plan in 2016, even though a 2015 Department of Health and Human Services analysis found that eight in 10 could find a plan with a lower premium that offers the same coverage if they switched.”

Instead, patients should shop around and review all plan options available to them and their family.

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