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Report: Double-digit leaps in health insurance premium rates in parts of Illinois


CHICAGO — Insurance prices in parts of Illinois are spiking by more than 20 percent on the marketplace that's a cornerstone of President Barack Obama's health overhaul, according to an analysis Wednesday by the state's Department of Insurance.

In the most detailed look yet at 2016 rates, regulators reported eye-popping increases in some counties.

Eighteen counties in northern Illinois are seeing increases on the lowest cost silver plans of more than 20 percent, the report shows. In Rock Island, the lowest cost bronze plan climbed 39 percent from a $129 per month plan offered in 2015 by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois to a $180 plan offered for 2016 by United HealthCare.

"Confused, shocked, astonished," said northeastern Illinois insurance broker James Hodgdon, describing client reactions. "They were having difficulty affording it before the increases."

Last week, statewide increases of 5 to 6 percent reported by both Illinois and the federal government were more palatable. Price dips in Chicago were masking big increases elsewhere, the new report reveals.

In Chicago, a new entrant to the market, Celtic Insurance, brought prices of the lowest cost bronze plan down by 4 percent and by 8 percent for the lowest cost silver plan. A 21-year-old in Chicago can get a Celtic bronze plan for about $128 per month and a Celtic silver plan for about $152 per month, before cost-lowering tax credits. Those are the lowest prices in the state.

Rural southern Illinois has the highest prices. A 21-year-old there will pay $214 monthly for the lowest bronze plan, before tax credits, or $246 monthly for the lowest cost silver plan that's available.

Even before the health law, prices varied a lot by region. Insurance carriers take into account differences in medical costs and how often people go to the doctor.

What's new is that insurers are refining prior assumptions about who would enroll and how sick they would be.

"The people who have the biggest rate increases probably had a good deal in the past, which isn't going to make them any happier," said Dave Axene of the Society of Actuaries, who reviewed the Illinois report.

The report looks at the lowest cost silver and bronze plans in each region, comparing 2015 and 2016 prices. Plans are classified by metal categories — bronze, silver, gold — depending on how much care they cover.

Some people qualify for tax credits that keep pace with higher prices — a single 30-year-old earning $23,000 a year in Peoria, for example, can get a lowest cost bronze plan for $44 per month in 2016 after a subsidy.

Anyone who doesn't qualify for financial help will feel the impact of the price increases.

A third enrollment season began Sunday. To get coverage that starts Jan. 1, consumers must enroll by Dec. 15. Open enrollment ends Jan. 31.

Online: http://insurance2.illinois.gov/healthinsurance/IllinoisRateAndPlanAnalysis.pdf

AP Medical Writer Carla K. Johnson can be reached at: https://twitter.com/CarlaKJohnson

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