OMAHA, Neb. — A sampling of policies by the Nebraska Insurance Department shows that about 82,000 Nebraskans will pay more than expected for individual health insurance next year because Blue Cross won’t offer policies on the Affordable Care Act’s federal exchange.

Extra increases averaging as much as 15 percent, on top of higher prices already set by the two remaining companies on the federal exchange, will push the premium increase to an average of nearly 41 percent for Aetna Health and more than 55 percent for Medica Health from their 2016 rates, the Omaha World-Herald ( ) reported.

In the dozen health plans sampled by the state agency, Aetna’s increases range from nearly 17 percent to nearly 66 percent. Medica’s increases range from nearly 41 percent to more than 73 percent.

The increases are intended to help Medica and Aetna break even as they take over coverage for the 20,000 people covered by federal exchange health plans this year from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska, said State Insurance Director Bruce Ramge.

“We’re in a very difficult situation right now with the rate increases the way they are,” said Dannette Coleman, general manager of individual and family business for Medica.

After Aetna and Medica calculated their 2017 premium rates last summer, UnitedHealth Group had said it would end its exchange insurance, which covers more than 16,000 people for 2016.

At the time Blue Cross was still presumed to offer plans on the exchange for 2017, and probably would have signed up former clients of UnitedHealth Group.

Andy Slavitt, acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which oversees the Affordable Care Act, said in a speech earlier this month that, on average, health plans on the exchange have been underpriced.

“Nobody knew what it would cost to cover sick people,” he said, because people with pre-existing medical conditions were denied coverage. The Affordable Care Act ended that practice.

Coleman said it’s important to remember that as the premium rates go up, the tax credits and other subsidies on the exchange also increase. That means the out-of-pocket increase for the customers may be substantially less than the amounts estimated by the State of Nebraska.

Information from: Omaha World-Herald,

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