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Health insurance providers propose large premium increases in Pa.

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HARRISBURG - New data from the Pennsylvania Insurance Department released Wednesday shows that people who buy health insurance from the public marketplace could see a big jump in their premiums next year.

The average individual plan has a proposed premium increase of 23.6 percent, while the average group plans could see around a 7.9 percent hike.

"Unfortunately, some of those proposed increases are quite large, which has us very concerned," state insurance commissioner Teresa Miller said.

One such individual plan is asking for a 48 percent increase, and there are several others seeking similar rate hikes.

"We're seeing rates this year that I think are higher than in the past," Miller said. "Last year, we had a few plans that came in with very significant increases. This year, we have many more plans that are coming in with very significant increases."

Miller says one factor in the rate hikes is that two of the programs through the Affordable Care Act that had a stabilizing effect on rates end this year.

Also, "we had companies coming in in 2014 [when the public marketplace began] pricing their plans very aggressively trying to get consumers in, and now that they have more experience, they're increasing the rates because they learned that those rates just weren't sustainable in terms of covering all the costs of providing the care," she said.

The insurance department says it will review the proposals and many will likely be reduced before they are published in October. The results of that review process saved policyholders around $81 million last year, the department said.

They are also taking public comment, but above all, they are encouraging consumers to shop around for a policy that is affordable and suits them, amid growing concerns that the Affordable Care Act may not be so affordable after all.

"One of the biggest factors that we look at when we're reviewing these is the impact it's going to have on those who are going to face these significant increases, and I hear a lot from them that they're really concerned about how they're going to continue affording paying these premiums," Miller said.