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NM health insurers seek increases from 3 percent to double digits

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico regulators on Wednesday unveiled details about the health insurance premiums proposed by five insurers for 2017 under the Affordable Care Act, and there are indications the state will not escape the hefty increases also expected nationwide.

The companies made requests that would increase premiums from 3 percent to well into the double digits in preliminary proposals filed with New Mexico Insurance Superintendent John Franchini.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Mexico, which is returning to the state’s health insurance exchange after taking a year off, has requested 2017 preliminary increases that range from 20 percent to 83 percent. Those percentages are compared to the company’s 2015 rates.

Among the other four insurers selling on the state exchange, Presbyterian Health Plan is seeking an average increase of 30 percent on its individual plan premiums, while New Mexico Health Connections seeks a bump of 20 to 30 percent on its individual plans.

Franchini said the other two companies selling through the exchange — Christus Health Plan and Molina Healthcare of New Mexico — asked for increases of between 3 and 6 percent.

Blue Cross, which left the exchange in 2016 when it couldn’t get approval for an average 52 percent rate hike on its plans, is back in the fold of companies offering individual Affordable Care Acts plans in 2017.

President Kurt Shipley said most Blue Cross customers will generally see a 30 percent hike over the company’s 2015 rates.

“What’s more relevant are what actual dollars people are going to pay” rather than percentage hikes, he said.

In calculating premiums, insurers consider an individual’s age, geographic location and use of tobacco products.

Those initial estimates are not set in stone. Franchini has the final authority to decide whether they go into effect.

The proposals will affect an estimated 55,000 customers who have signed up for individual health plans through the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange.

Customers will have a chance to shop around for coverage during an open enrollment period that begins in November. The new rates would go into effect Jan. 1.

Rate hikes for 2017 are reaching well into the double digits as insurers deal with the financial drain resulting from President Barack Obama’s health care law. More than 12 million people get coverage though the health law’s markets, which offer subsidized insurance. But the increases could also affect several million who purchase policies outside the government system.

The preliminary rate requests can be found by going to Click on Recent Rate Requests and then hit Search.

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