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As states get a peek at Healthcare.gov premium increases, Missouri has to wait

Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

If you’re one of the about 10 million people who don't have health insurance through work and buy it on your own, this is the week to see what rate hikes your insurance company is asking regulators to approve for next year. That is, unless you live in Missouri.

State legislators approved a law last year to allow Missouri’s insurance regulator to review price increases for health insurance plans. But the state decided to postpone the deadline to share those rates with the public, citing “several significant developments impacting the individual health insurance market.”  About 240,000 Missourians buy plans on Healthcare.gov.

“The Department invites the public to comment on the proposed rates when they are published on September 1, 2017,” wrote Chlora Lindley-Myers, director of Missouri’s Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions and Professional Registration.

One major change was Centene’s last-minute entry into Missouri’s “bare counties,” which after the exit of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City could have been left with no option on Healthcare.gov.

Missouri officials were waiting to see the outcome of a Republican plan to repeal major parts of the Affordable Care Act. Those efforts culminated in a dramatic, late-night vote last week, when a bill to do so did not pass the Senate.

“It wasn’t really clear what the situation was going to be … so it makes sense that the department pushed it back, especially being the only state in the country for which this is the first year that they’re actually reviewing rates,” said Cara Spencer, executive director of the Consumers Council of Missouri.

Spencer, a St. Louis alderman who represents the 20th Ward, said Missouri’s rate review law is limited because the regulator can’t actually reject rate hikes — but the state can label them excessive, discriminatory, or unreasonable.

“As those rates continue to grow, we want to make sure they’re doing so in a fair manner. If you sign up for a plan and you’re expecting to pay ‘X’ amount and it goes up 28 percent, it’s got to be justified,” Spencer said.

Insurers also have warned that rates will rise this year due to the Trump administration waffling over whether it will allow cost-sharing subsidies for individual plans to continue.

Illinois rate increases, posted Tuesday, range from 5.4 percent by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois to 43 percent for a plan submitted by Health Alliance Medical Plans.
Follow Durrie on Twitter: @durrieB