CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Health insurance rates for Wyoming residents under the federal Affordable Care Act are set to climb an average of 7 percent next year, state and industry officials say.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wyoming is the only company offering insurance under the program in the state and currently insures nearly 24,000 people. Company official Wendy Curran said Thursday the company will continue offering coverage next year.
The registration period to buy coverage for next year opens in November.
“We think that it has worked pretty well for us as a company and the Wyoming market,” Curran said Thursday. “The experience of other insurers around the country has not been that positive.”
Curran said her company is set to increase its rates 7 percent next year. Currently, a single person in their 40s would pay about $460 a month for coverage under the most popular plan. Tax credits to offset the cost of coverage are available to people below 400 percent of the federal poverty level and cover an average of about 80 percent of the gross premium nationwide.
WINhealth, the only other company to offer coverage in Wyoming, closed down at the end of last year, forcing about 13,000 customers to find new coverage. Company officials blamed the federal program for the shutdown, saying it wasn’t reimbursed for millions in cost overruns.
“In 2017, I can tell you for sure that we will only have one company on the exchange,” Wyoming Insurance Commissioner Tom Glause said this week.
Glause serves as court-appointed receiver for WINhealth and said medical providers have until Dec. 31 to submit any claims against the company’s estate.
Seven states will only have one insurer in each of their marketplace regions next year, according to projections from Avalere Health, a consulting firm.
Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., has emerged in Congress as a leading critic of the Affordable Care Act. President Barack Obama pushed the health insurance overhaul measure through early in his first term.
In a speech in the Senate this week, Barrasso, who worked as a surgeon before going to Congress, noted that many insurance companies have dropped out of the program nationwide and said he believes the entire program is near collapse.
“Millions of Americans will have fewer choices in 2017 than when they had in 2016, with a third of the country having only one option for coverage next year,” Barrasso stated, according to a transcript from his office. “The Obama administration said that these were supposed to be competitive marketplaces. When there’s only one company selling a product in an area, that’s not competition — that’s a monopoly.”
The immediate future of the Affordable Care Act apparently hinges on the outcome of this fall’s presidential election. Republican nominee Donald Trump has said he would dismantle the system while Democrat Hillary Clinton has pledged to improve it.
Curran said her company doesn’t sense that the entire Affordable Care Act program is going away despite the exodus of several major insurance companies.
“I think it’s more of a business decision, rather than a uniform dismissal of the overall plan itself,” Curran said of the decision of some companies to pull out of the program. “It’s not perfect by any means, but I think the presidential election may change things or may clarify things as we go forward.”