CA health premium increases raising concerns

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Friday, October 28, 2016
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In four years, Covered California has reduced the number of uninsured Californians in half, but a premium increase of 25 percent is set to kick in next year.

MAR VISTA, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Since Covered California went into effect four years ago, it's cut the number of previously uninsured Californians in half. But some of these healthcare consumers are going to get hit pretty hard soon.

Premiums are set to jump about 25 percent next year. Even though government subsidies will help a majority of people, some will experience substantial increases.

Fitness instructor Laura Gideon of Mar Vista runs a business out of her home. She buys her own health insurance through Covered California and was outraged when she learned her and her husband's monthly premium will jump from $875 to more than $1,100 starting January.

"This was quite shocking. Not only did the premium go up, but the coverage went down," said Gideon.

Ninety percent of people under Covered California will qualify for enough subsidies to offset their premium increase. But people like Gideon, who owns her own business and makes a middle-class income, won't qualify for enough subsidies.

Nancy Gomez, organizing director with Healthcare Access, a non-profit health consumer advocacy group, added if you're between the ages of 55 and 65, your premium will go up even more. Gomez also attributed Gideon's increase to age. She explained a 57-year-old could be charged three times as much as a 20-year-old.

But Gomez said without the Affordable Care Act, many Americans with pre-existing conditions would not qualify for insurance and premiums would have been much higher.

"Obamacare is not setting the price," said Gomez. "It's the rising cost of healthcare."

Health Access is advocating for state laws to get rate regulation and reduce prescription drug cost. Those measures would keep insurance affordable for individual buyers.

Until then, Gomez's advice is to study the Covered California website.

"Shop and compare and select a different plan and select a different insurance company," she advised.

Dec. 15 is the last day to sign up or make a change in time to take effect Jan. 1.

"I feel like there's no incentive to keep yourself healthy," Gideon said.

She expressed that she feels like she is being penalized for rarely using her health benefits. She's hoping hard-working, self-employed people like her will get more of a choice with Covered California.

"Keep what is good and fix what is broken," she said.