Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Obamacare's latest trend: sticker shock

Sun Sentinel By Sally C. Pipes

Americans rank health costs as their top financial concern, according to Gallup.

That's not likely to change anytime soon. Health insurers are requesting massive premium hikes for next year -- some in excess of 50 percent.

This shouldn't come as a surprise. The Affordable Care Act has been driving up costs since its creation. And thanks to a new wave of mergers among health insurers prompted by Obamacare, America's health cost crisis will only grow worse.

Premiums are skyrocketing nationwide.

Regulators in Oregon just green-lit a 25 percent increase for Moda Health Plan. A popular Utah insurance plan is seeking a 45 percent increase. Blue Cross Blue Shield is requesting price hikes ranging from 23 percent in Illinois to 54 percent in Minnesota.

Nationwide, premiums for the most common plans will increase by an average of 14 percent next year.

Even in states where premium growth is slowing, people are stretching their budgets to pay for insurance. On California's exchange, rates are slated to increase just 4 percent next year.

But the state's premiums have long been among the highest in the nation. Folks in northern California will pay $384 a month, on average. That's $70 higher than the average premium for a mid-level plan nationwide.

It's no wonder that four in 10 Californians shopping on the exchange say that they struggle to pay their premiums.

Obamacare has caused premiums to spike before, especially for younger folks. Since the law went into effect in 2013, premiums for 23-year-old women have risen an average of 45 percent, while men of the same age experienced 78 percent increases. Premiums for 30-year-olds surged 35 percent for women -- and 73 percent for men.

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