Georgians Could See Big Spike In Health Insurance Costs

A computer screen welcomes applicants to apply for health insurance online at the Atlanta Medical Center South Campus, Monday, March 31, 2014, in Atlanta. People who don't have health insurance have until midnight Monday to enroll or else they'll face federal tax penalties under the Affordable Care Act. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Credit David Goldman / Associated Press
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Some Georgians who signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act could face a double digit premium increase next year if providers get the rate increases they’re asking for.

The requests were released this week on the government website Healthcare.gov. In order to raise insurance rates over 10 percent on the federal exchange, companies have to make their case to the government. Under the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” those higher rate increases have to be made public on the exchange and are open for public comment and scrutiny.

Premium hike proposals for next year for Georgia insurers range all the way to a 64 percent increase for a plan with Time Insurance Company. Most insurance companies, though, are asking for a 10 to 20 percent price bump.

“We’re seeing much larger premium increases than we’ve seen in any sector of the health insurance market for the last four or five years,” says William Custer, a health researcher at Georgia State University.

Custer says those big jumps follow a cyclical pattern. He says spikes in insurance premiums typically lag a few years behind recessions because insurers expect more people to start using their coverage.

However, Custer also suspects insurance companies want to be prepared for an upcoming U.S. Supreme Court decision about the federal subsidies that help middle- and low-income individuals pay for coverage under the Affordable Care Act. The court is expected to rule this month whether people who signed up for care on the federal exchange can continue to get subsidies.

“Those subsidies had the effect of attracting younger and healthier people into the insurance market. Without those subsidies, many of those people may drop out,” Custer says.

The rates are still tentative though and will be debated in the coming months.

Final rates will be determined this fall, after the Supreme Court decision.