Health insurance sign-up

Premiums will go up an average of 15.9 percent next year for Wisconsin health insurance plans on the Affordable Care Act exchange, according to the state Office of the Commissioner of Insurance.

“While increases for Wisconsinites are lower than many other states, these rate changes and the recent exiting of numerous national carriers make it even more important for individuals to actively explore their health insurance options to ensure appropriate coverage,” insurance commissioner Ted Nickel said in a statement Friday.

Officials with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services say most consumers won’t have to face steep hikes themselves because the vast majority receive tax credits to help pay premiums and consumers can shop around for cheaper plans.

The premiums don’t take into account deductibles, which can be thousands of dollars for some plans. This year, the median deductible is $850.

Enrollment on the federal exchange, or marketplace, begins Nov. 1 for coverage starting Jan. 1.

About 224,000 people in Wisconsin were insured through the exchange as of March. Most people are insured through their employer or the government programs Medicare or Medicaid, so they aren’t affected by the exchange’s rate increases.

In Dane County, the insurance commissioner’s office approved insurers’ proposed rate increases for the exchange released in August.

Unity Health Insurance’s three individual plans will go up 28.3 percent to 37.9 percent, according to ratereview.healthcare.gov. The website doesn’t provide the premium amounts.

Dean Health Plan’s two policies will increase 20.9 percent and 16.2 percent. Group Health Cooperative of South Central Wisconsin’s plan will go up 5.4 percent.

Physicians Plus is withdrawing from the individual exchange next year. The rate for its individual plan off the exchange will increase 18.7 percent.

WPS Health Insurance is withdrawing its Arise Health Plans offerings on the exchange next year.

Many insurers set rates low during the first two years of the exchange, in 2014 and 2015, but the people who signed up for plans ended up being sicker than projected, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. That led many companies to raise rates this year and for next year.

The large national insurers Aetna, Humana and United Healthcare are pulling out of several markets around the country next year.

Under a new policy, the federal government will choose health plans for people whose insurers have left the exchange unless those people choose a plan on their own or opt out of the exchange.

Nickel criticized the policy. “We continue to believe the ACA’s new auto re-enrollment ignores centuries of contract law, is a violation of numerous Wisconsin consumer protection laws, and, most importantly, is harmful to Wisconsin consumers,” he said.

Capital W: Plug in to Wisconsin politics

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