Uncertainty remains regarding healthcare costs
Posted at: 09/09/2013 10:32 PM
| Updated at: 09/10/2013 8:04 AM
By: Caleb James, KOB Eyewitness News 4
On Monday, the State Health Insurance Regulator approved a rate increase of at least nine percent for Blue Cross Blue Shield individual plan customers.
That's about 26,000 people in New Mexico who pay for their own insurance through the company and don't have a plan through work.
However, just last week, a national think-tank said it expected New Mexicans who don't get insurance through work to see their rates go down as a result of President Obama's Affordable Care Act.
That question, "Will rates go down?" had KOB Eyewitness News 4 asking if the answer is really so simple.
One Albuquerque insurance rate expert says the problem with the answer is the question.
Ask Burquenos what the Affordable Care Act will do to health insurance rates, and you get reactions like KOB heard on Monday.
"I have no idea if it's going to help us or not."
"I don't have enough information to give you an honest answer."
It's an easier question for Paige Duhamel:
"It's hard to ask because you're comparing apples to oranges," Duhamel said.
Duhamel works at the Southwest Women's Law Center in Albuquerque. She's just received a major grant to analyze health insurance rates and make sure they're fair for customers.
"You really can't say whether the rates are going to be higher or lower, because they're two different products," Duhamel said.
People who don't get insurance through work have to get individual private plans. That's the sort of plan Blue Cross Blue Shield just raised rates on.
"That's just the general market fluctuations," Duhamel said.
Blue Cross Blue Shield chief of staff Janice Torrez agrees -- almost.
"There's a portion of that that are the ACA fees associated with the Affordable Care Act," said Torrez.
But she echoes Duhamel's wait-and-see assessment.
"The exchange is going to be up and running October 1, so people will be able to evaluate their options, so we'll see at that time," she said.
The wait-and-see approach may not be too comforting for New Mexican's hoping for more clarity.
"There's a lot of comfort, actually," Duhamel said.
She said insurance shoppers can get a first look at what rates on the exchange may be by going to www.nmhealthratereview.com.
But even then, those rates won't yet include financial assistance available for low-income families and individuals.
So the answer - the only true answer to the rate question is - wait and see.
The good news is New Mexicans only have about three weeks to wait until the Health Insurance Exchange launches October 1.