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State announces health-insurance rate increases for 2018

By Eric Reinhardt

Date:

Rochester–based Excellus BlueCross BlueShield (Excellus BCBS), Central New York’s largest health insurer, operates an office in DeWitt. The state says Excellus BCBS will increase its health-insurance rates 8.9 percent in 2018 for those with plans through their employer in the small-group market. New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) on Tuesday announced rates for carriers serving the small-group and individual insurance markets. (Eric Reinhardt / BJNN file photo)

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield (Excellus BCBS) will increase its health-insurance rates 8.9 percent in 2018 for those with plans through their employer in the small-group market.

That’s according to the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS), which on Tuesday announced the 2018 health-insurance rates for New York’s individual and small-group markets.

Rochester–based Excellus BCBS is Central New York’s largest health insurer.

At the same time, Schenectady–based MVP Health Care, which has nearly 60,000 subscribers in Central New York, will raise its small-group rate more than 9 percent next year.

New York City–based EmblemHealth plans to increase its small-group rate about 8 percent. EmblemHealth, which operates an office in DeWitt, has nearly 39,000 subscribers in Central New York, according to the 2017 Book of Lists.

Minnetonka, Minnesota–based UnitedHealthcare plans to raise its small-group rate about 8 percent, DFS said. UnitedHealthcare, which has 190,000 subscribers in Central New York, operates an office in DeWitt.

And Albany–based CDPHP will hike its small-group rates about 20 percent.

CDPHP, which is short for Capital District Physicians’ Health Plan, Inc., has a coverage area that includes Broome, Chenango, Herkimer, Madison, Oneida, and Tioga counties.

More than 1 million New Yorkers are enrolled in small-group plans, according to DFS.

Insurers requested an average rate increase of 11.7 percent in the small-group market. DFS cut the requested rate increases by 2.4 percent to 9.3 percent for 2018, “saving small businesses $166 million,” the department contended.

A “number” of small businesses will also be eligible for tax credits “that may lower those premium costs even further,” DFS said.

 

Individual market

Besides the small-group market, DFS also announced rates for the individual market, which includes rates for NY State of Health, New York’s official health-plan marketplace.

DFS reduced insurers’ total weighted average increase requested for individuals from 17.7 percent to 13.9 percent. Many consumers will get federal tax credits to further offset the costs. For example, the overall average 2018 cost of coverage for individuals who purchase silver-level plans –– will decrease about 5 percent compared to 2017 rates when federal tax credits are applied, the agency noted.

The silver-level plans are the “most popular choice” for individuals purchasing on the marketplace, DFS said.

About 350,000 New Yorkers are enrolled in an individual commercial plan, it added.

Underlying medical costs continue to be the “main drivers” of premium rate increases, “reflecting a nationwide trend.”

For the 2018 individual rates announced Tuesday, drug costs account for the largest share, or 26 percent, of all medical costs, with specialty drug costs increasing about 49 percent.

Inpatient hospital costs account for the second biggest share of medical expenses (19 percent), followed by physician specialty services (12 percent) and diagnostic testing/lab/x-ray (10 percent).

Contact Reinhardt at ereinhardt@cnybj.com