A top federal health official said the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is “working closely with” Georgia officials on a request for more time to review hefty premium hikes requested by those remaining plans in the state Health Insurance Marketplace while also apparently questioning whether those premium increases are real.
During a conference call Wednesday, Michael Hash, director of the Office of Health Reform for HHS, said Florida and Georgia state officials are reporting large premium increase requests but have yet to publicly reveal the actual rates.
“So the kind of statistics that have been released in those states really don’t provide consumers with information about how much the premiums for their plans will be and what the range of premiums will be,” he said. “What we are seeing though is premiums are lower around the country in those states that have already publicly released proposed or finalized rates.”
HHS published a study a week ago that looked at rates in 11 states that had published them and found that on average they were 20 percent lower than what the Congressional Budget Office had predicted back when the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010, Hash said.
“So we remain very confident that in these marketplaces, including in Georgia and Florida, that premiums will be affordable and consumers will have lots of choices that are affordable and meet their needs,” he said.
But there will be two fewer choices in Georgia after Aetna and Coventry withdrew their plans from the state exchange, leaving five plans remaining, Commissioner Ralph Hudgens said. He had asked HHS this week for an extension of 30 days to review the premiums requested by the other plans, which outside actuaries had said for the most part were reasonable, but which appeared to be substantial increases over previous years.
“Obviously, we’re interested and are in fact today working closely with the state of Georgia to resolve issues that they may have, to make sure that ... the marketplace is up and ready Oct. 1 for open enrollment,” Hash said.
Asked specifically if Georgia would get an extension – the deadline was Wednesday – Hash said he didn’t know but “we’re open to talking with them and trying to resolve any outstanding issues as quickly as possible.”