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Study: Proposed health insurance hikes for some in ABQ are lower than other cities

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Triage rooms next to the walk-in waiting room at the Lovelace Medical Center Emergency Department on Monday, January 4, 2016. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Premiums for one the most popular low-cost medical plans under the Affordable Care Act — aka Obamacare — could increase by an average of 4 percent next year in Albuquerque, compared to 10 percent among 14 metropolitan areas, a study released Wednesday has found.

The analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation also found Albuquerque had the lowest proposed monthly premium charge among cities studied for both that plan — the second-cheapest silver plan — and the cheapest silver plan — $193 and $192, respectively. Those costs are for a 40-year-old non-smoker.

Kaiser based its projections on insurers’ preliminary rates filed with state regulators, which remain subject to state or federal review.

An estimated 55,000 customers signed up for individual health plans in 2016 through the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange.

The projected premiums for 2017 do not factor in tax credits or the amount of money enrollees pay for deductibles, said Cynthia Cox, one of Kaiser study’s authors.

“The deductible data isn’t available for these states. We won’t know what they look like until open enrollment starts in November,” said Cox, associate director of Kaiser’s program for the study of health reform and private insurance. She said many plans in the ACA marketplace may cut back on co-pays if they raise the deductibles.

“We’re seeing this trend in the employer-paid market, too.”

A plan with a high deductible will have cheaper monthly payments, but you’ll pay a lot upfront when you need care.

Cox said silver plans are popular, with 68 percent of marketplace enrollees choosing the lowest-cost or second lowest-cost silver plan available to them.

While the figures are just an average and the final tab for health coverage will be different for many, the “anecdotal examples of premium hikes or averages across insurers can provide a skewed picture of the increases marketplace enrollees will actually face.”

“… About 8 in 10 marketplace enrollees are receiving government premium subsidies, and these enrollees are protected from an increase in premiums if they continue to be enrolled in a low-cost plan.”

Most workers and their families are covered by employers, but about 12 million people get private coverage through HealthCare.gov and online insurance markets run by states.

In the Kaiser study, the changes range from a decrease of 14 percent in Providence, R.I., to an increase of 26 percent in Portland,Ore.

“Premiums are going up faster in 2017 than they have in past years,” Cox said.

New Mexico regulators last month unveiled details about the health insurance premiums proposed by five insurers for 2017 under the Affordable Care Act. The companies made requests that would increase premiums for all plans from an average of 3 percent to well into the double digits in preliminary proposals filed with New Mexico Insurance Superintendent John Franchini.

Among the five 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. 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. But those percentages are compared to the company’s 2015 rates.

Christus Health Plan and Molina Healthcare of New Mexico — asked for increases of between 3 and 6 percent.

Material from The Associated Press was included in this report.

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