BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina is the only health insurance company that participates in the Obamacare Marketplace in the Palmetto state.
So when they file for a significant increase, it’s big news for people who buy individual health insurance in South Carolina.
According to the Charleston Post and Courier, BCBS has filed for a 33% rate increase for 2018. Yikes!
Some Things to Keep in Mind About Health Insurance Price Increases
- The South Carolina Department of Insurance must approve that rate increase, and at press time, to my knowledge it has not yet done so.
- People who enroll in a plan and receive premium tax credits (income subsidies that lower the premium) will not feel much of an impact, because the subsidy amounts will also adjust with the premium. So there will be an increase, but not a severe one.
- People who enroll in a plan that and are not eligible for subsidies, however, will really feel the brunt of this huge increase.
It’s also worth noting that health insurance companies nationwide are rolling out big increases or pulling out of the Obamacare Marketplace completely. While one factor continues to be the constant rise in healthcare pricing, the massive uncertainty surrounding what, if anything, Congress and/or the Trump administration will do with the Affordable Care Act is being cited as a primary reason for the massive rate hike.
If the government decides not to fund cost-sharing subsidies, which the ACA provides to lower the out-of-pocket costs (deductibles and copays) of lower-income enrollees, then health insurance companies will be forced to absorb those subsidy amounts. And apparently this is a real possibility.
What You Can Do About Rising Health Insurance Costs
Again, if you’re eligible for subsidies that lower the premium, the increase in the price you actually pay will not be that drastic. The calculation used to determine subsidy amounts will factor in the new prices, and the subsidy amount will therefore also increase, covering most of the elevated costs.
If, however, you’re not eligible for subsidies (or qualify only for a little relief), you’ll either be forced to absorb much higher prices or find alternatives. Speaking of which…
Alternatives to Obamacare in South Carolina
There are no perfect alternatives; no magic bullet solution. But here are the options you could explore, in no particular order:
- Group health insurance plan. If you happen to own or work in a small business, we could help you look into plans and prices for your company.
- Short-term health insurance. These are catastrophic plans that provide a good safety net, but the coverage is not as robust as what you get with Obamacare and pre-existing conditions aren’t covered. But they’re usually a LOT cheaper than non-subsidized Obamacare plans. Learn more here.
- Health sharing organizations. These are faith-based alternatives to traditional health insurance plans. Again, they aren’t for everyone and won’t work for those with pre-existing health conditions, but they are a LOT cheaper than individual health insurance plans and come with an exemption from the “individual mandate” of the Affordable Care Act. Learn more here.
- No coverage at all. This is a considerable risk, of course, but some people simply decide they cannot afford the prices of individual health insurance plans and aren’t interested in the other options listed above. If you decide to go this route, we strongly recommend that you consider a couple of inexpensive supplemental plans that will at least help with healthcare costs related to accidents or critical illnesses like cancer. Learn more here. You should also get telemedicine.
When Will Obamacare Prices for South Carolina Be Available?
Let’s finish where we began. The 33% increase Blue Cross has filed for may or may not become the actual increase approved by the SC Department of Insurance. Events and decisions in Washington DC very well may impact the final pricing we see in 2018.
We likely won’t have the ability to look at specific pricing until very close to the time Open Enrollment begins for 2018, which will be November 1, 2017. We’ll know a lot more in a few months. Until then, stay tuned.