|By Christopher Snowbeck, Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
If approved by state regulators, the proposed increase could affect future premiums for an additional 65,000 people in small-business accounts with the
It's unclear whether other health insurers will follow
The small-group market hasn't seen a major premium increase from a major insurer in the nearly two years a government website has been tracking big premium jumps.
"The biggest reason for the increase in the rate that's needed is medical trends, and growing medical expense," said
taxes from the federal health care overhaul legislation also are a factor in the proposed premium increase, Bartsh said. But the impact is muted because several of the taxes won't kick in until January.
"The key drivers of the increase include general medical cost increases,"
There has been considerable interest in the outlook for premiums as the most sweeping provisions of the federal health law take effect next year. The law includes new health insurance market rules that are expected to create distinct groups of financial winners and losers.
In the small-employer market, for example, health insurers in
Costs from the new rules are expected to be a significant factor in rate requests that insurance companies are filing this month for policies that begin
"There will be sticker shock between now and
But those costs aren't listed as a factor in the premium increase being sought by
That outlook fits with an April report from the trade group for local health insurers that tracked a jump during 2012 in per-person spending by health plans for medical care.
"The volume of covered care was at a historically low level during the economic downturn," said
In 2010 and 2012,
"In 2012, we lost money on this business," Bartsh said. "So, we have to re-adjust our trend assumptions."
To some extent, the entire small-group health insurance market in
"If we've been walking along at close to zero percent for the last couple years, that's just unrealistic," Schneeman said. "As a population, we're getting older and we're getting access to more and more expensive treatment options."
Federal officials contend that increased transparency about proposed rate increases could help moderate growth in premiums.
From 1999 to 2010, the cost of coverage for a family of four in
"Many times, insurance companies have been able to raise rates without explaining their actions," the federal government wrote in a background document about the website. "In most cases, consumers receive little or no information about proposed premium increases, and aren't told why health insurance companies want to raise rates."
None of those insurers in the small-group market had an average rate increase of more than 10 percent from 2009 to the present, according to the
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