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Oregon tells insurers to raise 2016 premiums for health insurance in individual market


PORTLAND, Oregon — Health insurance premiums are poised to go up for 220,000 Oregonians who buy their own coverage, according to the state's proposed rates unveiled Thursday.

In some cases, insurance companies proposed rates that were similar to or better than the current rates, but they were told by the state that they must be raised. The state says the cost of medical care has far outstripped revenue, forcing insurers to dip into reserve funds.

The proposed premiums are still subject to public comment and formal approval.

Under the state's proposal, the cost for the lowest priced silver plan for a 40-year-old will be $271 per month next year, up nearly $50 from this year, the Oregonian reported (http://bit.ly/1d4JrNv ).

Most insured Oregonians get coverage from an employer or the government, so they're unaffected by the proposed rate hikes. About 75 percent of people in the individual market, who are affected, qualify for federal tax credits averaging almost $200 per month.

Moda Health, which covers more than 100,000 Oregonians in the individual market, would raise premiums an average of 25.6 percent under the state's rates.

Last year, Oregon avoided some of the big premium hikes seen elsewhere following the implementation of President Barack Obama's health care law. State officials have often boasted that Oregonians enjoyed some the lowest premiums in the nation. But now the state says those rates were too low.

According to the state, in 2014, insurers spent $830 million on medical care for people with individual plans and collected $703 million in premiums.

"We need to ensure a market that long term is stable, competitive and ensures pricing that is much closer to the cost of delivering health care," said Pat Allen, director of the state Department of Consumer and Business Services, which oversees the Insurance Division.

Information from: The Oregonian, http://www.oregonlive.com

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