Health Care

Health insurance could cost up to 49.4% more for individuals, small businesses

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People who buy health insurance on their own could pay up to 49.4 percent more for insurance next year.

This comes after a year of rate increases that ranged up to 25 percent for those groups.

The rates apply to those who purchase health policies directly from an insurance company or from the government’s health exchange. Small businesses that buy group insurance policies for their employees also are likely to see an increase.

The rate increases would only apply to about 6 percent of the population, according to the Kansas Insurance Department.

That’s because many people receive insurance through large employers that can negotiate rates directly with the insurance companies and generally have more leverage to control costs.

But plans for individuals and small businesses go through the Kansas Insurance Department. The department reviews the insurance companies’ actuarial data and assumptions, then chooses to accept, revise or deny each proposed hike.

“We certainly want to bring reasonable rates for health insurance plans,” said Clark Shultz, director of government and public relations for the Kansas Insurance Department. “It’s a difficult year – there’s no question.”

Last year, insurance companies asked for increases of as much as 39 percent, but the highest increase approved by the department was 24.5 percent.

Health insurance increases for individuals and small businesses proposed this year ranged from 3.3 percent to 49.4 percent.

Shultz said most proposed increases were less than 25 percent.

The rates will be finalized Aug. 23, and open enrollment begins Nov. 1 for next year’s plans that start Jan. 1.

Employees of large companies typically don’t find out the cost of their health insurance plans until fall. Last year, many companies with more than 100 full-time employees saw rate increases of around 15 to 20 percent.

Tiers of choices

The increases are averages, so an individual could pay less or more within one plan.

That’s because people can choose from tiers of benefit choices such as bronze, silver, gold and platinum within each plan.

And under the Affordable Care Act, companies can calculate a person’s insurance premium using the person’s age, location and tobacco use. For people with family plans, the size of the family and ages of each family member also factor in.

The state said it received 33 plan proposals – 29 individual plans and four small business plans.

Three companies will provide individual plans in Kansas: BlueCross BlueShield, Medica, and Coventry Health and Life. United Healthcare announced in May that it would bow out of the individual market in Kansas.

Medica, a Minnesota-based insurance company, is offering exchange plans in Kansas for the first time. Coventry, which dropped out for 2016 coverage in Kansas, is returning to the exchange market on is the federal health insurance exchange created through the Affordable Care Act. will list proposed increases in each state.

Gabriella Dunn: 316-268-6400, @gabriella_dunn