Area residents upset by soaring insurance cost projections

Area residents upset by soaring insurance cost projections

CHAMPAIGN — When Caron Barnhart saw how much her insurance through Health Alliance Medical Plans would cost next year, she had to double-check to see if it could be right.

Her monthly premium on an individual health plan covering just herself, now $279, would increase to $700.

Plus, she said, she learned her annual deductible would be rising along with the premium — from $1,500 to $2,000 — on in-network health care.

A 64-year-old sorority house director, Barnhart sent Health Alliance an e-mail to make sure she had the right rate, and sure enough, she said, "it was just what I figured."

Barnhart and others who buy their own health coverage are seeing increases for next year to help pay for new taxes and other expenses built into the Affordable Care Act.

The new costs are turning up in next year's insurance premiums to help offset the cost of covering millions of people who haven't had insurance before and to help foot the bill for such things as new mandatory benefits for all and other new regulations.

Some details that will affect premiums next year for people buying coverage on their own, according to America's Health Insurance Plans, a trade group representing health insurers:

— A number of new taxes and fees, among them a health insurance premium tax that will cost $8 billion in 2014 and grow annually, and a new user fee for health plans operating in the federal marketplace.

— New coverage: Starting Jan. 1, 2014, all health plans must include 10 essential health benefits that will make health coverage both more comprehensive and costly.

All policies sold in both the private market and in the state-federal marketplace must include maternity care, hospitalization, laboratory services, prescription drugs, ambulatory patient services, emergency services, prevention and wellness, mental and behavioral health, pediatric services and rehabilitative services.

— New regulations starting Jan. 1 that include an end to exclusions for pre-existing conditions for adults (exclusions for children are already prohibited) and an end to rate differences for gender and health status. Insurers in states (including Illinois) that now allow premium rates to vary as much as five times more for older people than younger people will be limited to a three-to-one variation.

More than double

Danville insurance agent Jim Moore said there are five new Affordable Care Act taxes adding up to a 7 percent increase in premiums.

And with all the new regulations and guidelines, he said, insurers "don't know what their claims are going to be."

Moore, 61, got hit with rate shock along with some of his own clients.

He learned his premium rates for himself and his wife on a Health Alliance high-deductible plan would jump from $560 to $1,422 a month come Jan. 1, 2014, he said.

Moore said he can't afford to renew at that rate. But he also earns about $800 a year too much to be eligible for a government subsidy to knock down the cost of marketplace health plan premium.

Many of his clients are in the same situation, he said — facing unaffordable premium increases, but also ineligible for a government premium subsidy on a government marketplace plan. He predicted some will be forced to go uninsured and pay the penalty next year.

"I don't blame the insurance companies," he said. "I blame the administration for doing this without more research."

The penalty for failing to have health coverage increases annually and will be calculated one of two ways based on whichever is greater:

— 1 percent of your annual income, with the maximum being the annual cost of carrying a bronze health plan in the government marketplace.

— $95 per adult and $47.50 per child in the household, with the maximum family penalty being $285.

Pay the penalty?

Barnhart said she has tried to check her own insurance options in the government marketplace to see if she qualifies for subsidized coverage, but she can't get past entering her name and password on the federal website.

"I'm so frustrated with the whole thing," she said.

What she'll do, she doesn't know. Since she's in good health, she said, it might wind up being easier for her to pass on the insurance and pay the penalty.

"I'd rather everything be what it is right now, prior to Jan. 1 when everything is supposed to change, because I don't see how it's going to make things better for so many people," Barnhart said.

Health Alliance spokeswoman Jane Hayes said keeping insurance affordable and accessible is both a goal and challenge for the company.

"There are a number of factors created by the Affordable Care Act influencing premiums for 2014 — mandatory added coverage that some people have chosen not to purchase in the past, like maternity coverage and prescription drug coverage; added insurance risk that comes with the unknown health costs of applicants when all must be accepted; age rating band compression, which means younger people subsidize more of the cost of older people," she said in an e-mail.

More factors she lists: New taxes and fees, with the health insurance tax alone projected to run $5 billion in Illinois over the next decade, an average of $500 million a year.

The Affordable Care Act also includes protections for insurers that the company hopes will help offset any extremely high claims costs, Hayes said. But the impact of those programs won't be felt until 2015, when Health Alliance reports its 2014 costs and the federal government determines whether the company is eligible for more money, she said.

Meanwhile, Hayes also said, "We're working very hard to keep administrative costs down so we're not adding unnecessary costs to health insurance premiums. That, along with negotiating the best possible discounts with our health care providers and offering programs and coverage that help people improve and maintain their health are the best we can do to keep premiums affordable."

'Like ... living on public aid'

But retired nurse Louann Meier, 59, of Urbana, will need to turn elsewhere for coverage, she said.

Her own Health Alliance health plan premium is going up from $258 to $800 a month, so she has tried — unsuccessfully — to see if there might be affordable coverage in the government marketplace, she said.

Problems with the federal website have kept her from getting very far in that process. She finally had to mail an application to the government, and now she's waiting on a response with a Dec. 15 deadline looming to cancel her Health Alliance plan, she said.

Meier said her income places her in the range for a premium subsidy — though she doesn't know how much it would be.

But she expresses distaste for a system that forces her to accept coverage for care, such as maternity — that she doesn't need at her age — and leaves her turning to the government to help pay for it.

"I'm going to feel now like I'm going to be living on public aid," Meier said. "I didn't want help from the government. I wanted to pay my own bills."

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787 wrote on October 30, 2013 at 2:10 pm

So glad that the democrats own this one.  Congratulations to them.

So sorry to everyone who is going to get screwed by this.  We were all told by the President himself, that if you liked your plan... you could keep it.  

What a monumental lie that was.

cretis16 wrote on November 04, 2013 at 7:11 am

Same cancelled, then offered to re-do with all the requirments of Obama Care...but it would only cost me $340 more per month. Why do men need maternity care ,,,,oh I get it..we got screwed by our lying president.

JimmyB wrote on October 30, 2013 at 3:10 pm

So many lies, so little time.........

David Illinois wrote on October 30, 2013 at 7:10 pm

My policy was cancelled, not matted what Obama said (period).  And my new policy is 69% more expensive.  Thank you!

dd1961 wrote on October 31, 2013 at 4:10 am

But, But, But....I just saw a clip of this morning of President Obama saying if you have lost your insurance just shop the exchanges and it will probably be cheaper.  I believe him, don't you?   :)

Townie24 wrote on October 31, 2013 at 2:10 pm

So glad to know that the majority of us are going to be screwed so as to satisfy a select few.  My own plan has more than doubled for next year, but I am not complaining as it at least is a group plan through my employer, so its still a pretty sweet deal comparatively.  Its only a matter of time though before the insurance companies realize that they'll be able to more than double it again and still have it be cheaper than paying the penalty. 

bluegrass wrote on October 31, 2013 at 4:10 pm

This is what a tyrannical government looks like.  They lie to your face, and tell you that they're helping you when in fact they're doing the opposite.  They tell you you can keep your plan, while they cancel it.  They tell you it will be cheaper, when it is twice the cost.  They tell you the coverage is better, when you're paying for something you may not need.  They tell you what you can have, and what you can't have, and where you can buy it.  When the place they set up to buy their insurance doesn't work, they lie and tell you it is working.  They force insurance companies to cancel your policies, and tell you the insurance companies made the choice to cancel the policies.  They are intentionally disrupting the entire health insurance market, to satisty their own mistaken ideals and egos.  This is just the beginning.  Obama and his people enjoyed milking every ounce of pain from us at the last shutdown, just wait until the Dems and ruling class Republicans have their hands on your health care.  They've got hearings going right now on the website.  WHO CARES ABOUT THE IDIOTIC WEBSITE?!!  It's not about the website, or the idiot in charge of creating the website.  It's about the government lying throught their teeth about every single part of this monstrousity.  It's about taking away my ability to purchase the type of policy I want a the price I choose.  It's about forcing people like me to become part of the welfare state.  It's about government imposing their will on the private sector, and chewing up and spitting out the private, individual liberty of millions of American citizens.

novanut wrote on November 01, 2013 at 11:11 am

My wife got her notice from health alliance that the policy she had does not meet the standards of ACA and would not be renewed. But she would be moved to one that did .....we will be going from 324.00 to 706.06 , can't be done in this household.I have no idea what we are going to do but this is a fact. I saw him say it ...over and over and over and over.Remember you will be able to keep your insurance if you like it period!!!!! A total lie right to the face face of Americans.If you believe anything this group tells you soon will be seeing the true agenda he's up to.

indeed67 wrote on November 02, 2013 at 10:11 am

Clearly we are on the Obama Express....a train headed for disaster with no means of stopping it or protecting ourselves.  The ACA has been nothing but a problem from its onset.  Millions of Americans and small businesses have felt the wrath for several years now.  Implementation of the ACA merely adds more weight to the seemingly neverending crisis.  All I can say is that I hope some of the citizens who are now removing their "goggles" ...will at least agree to some extent that this country is completely unhealthy.  For those of us who still have hope that these upcoming elections will bring a renewed sunshine upon a dreary American population.  The Obama Express will eventually come to a stop, and I for one will be more than ready to get off!!!!!

yates wrote on November 03, 2013 at 8:11 am

Like someone said, socialism only works until others peoples money runs out. The democrats are about half way there.

Mr Dreamy wrote on November 03, 2013 at 1:11 pm

Keep in mind that insurance companies, not the government, set rates.

If you are getting screwed blame the right source.

Sid Saltfork wrote on November 03, 2013 at 6:11 pm

Your being logical again, Mr. Dreamy.  You will only confuse them.  If it were not the subject of insurance, it would be something else.  The President of the United States of America, President Obama, is the target of their hate.  "Everything is Obama's fault" happens to be the mantra of the right wing.  They will eventually fade away due to age, and a diversified gene pool.

yates wrote on November 04, 2013 at 9:11 am

Sid says" They will eventually fade away due to age, and a diversitied gene pool" I think he means he wants us to be just like Cuba.

Sid Saltfork wrote on November 04, 2013 at 9:11 am

Like Cuba in what?  The age, or the diversity?  Which one?

Skepticity wrote on November 03, 2013 at 6:11 pm

That's right!  It is all the fault of those naughty insurance companies charging too much, not the government that set the policy requirements that is raising the cost. 

Those greedy capitalists keep insisting that a business should make a profit and show a return for investors instead of losing money to help the general welfare of the public.  

It is a good thing that the government sets a good example by always spending more for the good cause than it brings in in revenue.  If businesses followed this model what a wonderful world this would be, with everyone being healthy and living happily ever after. 

Unfortunately the greedy businessmen and capitalist collaborators will insist on a profit, and insurance rates will rise beyond our ability to pay. 

But Government will save the day by taking over and giving us government insurance, one size fits all. 

indeed67 wrote on November 04, 2013 at 8:11 am


/əˌkaʊntəˈbɪlɪti/  Show Spelled [uh-koun-tuh-bil-i-tee]  Show IPA

noun 1. the state of being accountable, liable, or answerable.                                            So its the big mean insurance companies that are responsible for this?  Why even elect a president if his role is merely a shadow of our imagination?  As an American I love my freedom to choose what is right for me and my family.  Assuming that because we value our individual ability to make decisions that are right for us makes us ignorant is not only silly, it is nonsense. 

Sid Saltfork wrote on November 04, 2013 at 9:11 am

Did you make your "decisions" about the wars that this country has fought?  Mine was made for me by the government.  I was for some, and opposed to others; but it made no difference because it needed to be done according to which ever president was in office.  "Individual ability to make decisions" does not always apply to Congress, or a president making the decision.  In this case it was a president, and a Congress.  Vote for the party of your choice to change the law, or keep the law.  That is the decision we are allowed.  


Local Yocal wrote on November 05, 2013 at 4:11 am
Profile Picture

The biggest lie of all was Obama claiming the ACA plan would stand up to the insurance companies. Instead, he made a "deal" with them by allowing insurance companies a cut in the action. "You can make them buy our insurance!", and they  laugh to the bank along with the hospital industry. Nobody is talking about price gouging for healthcare the hospital industry does when government or an insurance company is picking up the tab.

The true failure of this system will be seen when incoming patients cannot get treated until they sign for an insurance plan or pay out of pocket for the fine. Somehow it was determined that it would be impossible to simply cover the 40 million without insurance on an expanded Medicaid system. "You do that, and we'll raise our premiums," said the insurance companies. "You do that and the government will go broke," shouted the Pentagon. And so, the unfunded mandate, er-sorry, I mean The Justice Roberts "Tax" ushers in a new Federal overeach: you will buy insurance. Driving is a priviledge that effects other people while you are on the road, our health is not a choice and has become another way to make money. I guess we don't have a right to be healthy.

The new ER room will be the county jail.