By William Patick | Florida Watchdog
TALLAHASSEE — Exactly how much health insurance will cost when Obamacare takes full effect next year is debatable.
But for millions of Floridians, one thing is certain — Insurance premiums will increase.
That much was confirmed Tuesday ,when Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty told the state Health Insurance Advisory Board that small business insurance rates will rise anywhere from 5 percent to 20 percent; individual plans are expected to increase 30 percent to 40 percent, on average.
An individual plan already costing $293 per month, for instance, will cost nearly $400 per month beginning in January.
Reasons for the higher costs include:
· Universal or “guaranteed issue” coverage
· New mandatory benefits
· Despite varying risk factors, men and women will be charged the same
· Limits on how much age can affect health plan costs
“Although the form and rate review process is ongoing, we have released this information to help the public and our state policymakers understand the full extent of federal health care reform and its imminent impact on our state,” McCarty said in a statement.
The Office of Insurance Regulation disclosed several documents Wednesday that show how state officials arrived at the cost increases.
Two methods were used: First, by creating a hypothetical Obamacare mid-level or “silver plan” — by adjusting a current Florida standard plan — and comparing it to existing plans offered by 11 different insurance providers.
The result was an average 35.2 percent premium increase. The rate of change was only 7.6 percent higher in one comparison, but as much as 58.8 percent more in another.
The other method used by state analysts involved comparing the new projected Obamacare premiums to current insurance premiums. That resulted in a 39.3 percent rate increase.
Federal subsidies will apply for some insurance buyers, but avoiding the rising costs by refusing to buy insurance would result in a tax penalty.
That penalty is known as the individual mandate. As of Jan. 1, 2014, Americans must buy health insurance or pay a penalty of $95 or 1 percent of adjusted gross income, whichever is higher. The Obama administration delayed the employer mandate until 2015.
The Office of Insurance Regulation says it will release data on small group premiums next, but the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will have the final say on premium prices and insurance providers looking to compete on Florida’s health exchange.
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