Revised Individual Market Health Insurance Rates Finalized

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HELENA, Mont. – Commissioner of Securities and Insurance Matt Rosendale today released revised average individual market health insurance rates for two Montana companies. The new overall averages follow the news that cost-sharing reduction payments (CSRs) to health insurance companies will cease, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) decision to allow Montana insurers to re-file rates.

PacificSource’s overall average rate increase will now be 13.1 percent. It was previously 7.4 percent. The Montana Health CO-OP’s new overall average increase is 16.6 percent, instead of 4 percent. Blue Cross Blue Shield’s increase remains unchanged at a 22.3 percent average.

The new rate increases will only affect Silver-level health insurance plans on the individual market. Federal subsidies for low-income consumers remain intact, and will offset some of the increases. There is no change to any of the benefits provided by the plans. The rate changes do not affect other individual market plans, and have no effect on employer or government-provided health insurance plans.

All three Montana health insurers will remain in the Montana marketplace, contrary to prior headlines and statements made by the Montana Health CO-OP.

“I want to reassure Montanans that they will still have three insurance companies and multiple plan options to choose from when selecting health insurance plans on the individual market,” Rosendale said. “I strongly encourage Montanans to look at all of their available options and shop for the plan that best suits their individual needs and budgets.”

After initially saying last Friday that Montana insurers would be ineligible for re-filing rates, CMS reversed its decision on Monday to allow insurers to re-file.

Montana law states that health insurers “shall submit a new filing to reflect any material change to the previous rate filing,” so long as the changes are filed at least 60 days before the rates go into effect (January 1). The State Auditor’s Office legal analysis determined that the end of CSR payments constituted a “material change.” The insurance commissioner’s office does not have the legal authority to deny these rate increases.

“I remain incredibly disappointed and frustrated that the Montana Health CO-OP and PacificSource have chosen to raise rates on their customers,” Rosendale said. “While we must continue to work together through changes at the federal level, both companies had assured me that they would have been able to honor their prior rates, even if CSRs were not paid. The companies will now have to answer to their customers for their reversal in that assurance.”

“I want to specifically correct the premature and misleading information put out by the Montana Health CO-OP,” Rosendale added. “The CO-OP will be staying in the Montana marketplace, and consumers should disregard prior statements contrary to that fact.”

Rosendale reiterated the need for health care and health insurance reforms at both the federal and state levels.

“Our office is doing everything within our power to keep costs down as much as possible, but Obamacare severely limits what we can do,” Rosendale said. “Congress must repeal Obamacare and let the states have more authority to fix our broken health care system. At the state level, the governor needs to stop vetoing bipartisan bills that would stabilize the market and lower costs.”

The State Auditor’s Office is working to update its rate sheets for specific insurance plans. Consumers will have access to plan-specific information before open enrollment begins on November 1.