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Kaiser analysts call Florida health rate data 'opaque'

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Uninsured Floridians will have to wait awhile longer to find out exactly how much Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) exchange plans will cost them.

Kaiser Family Foundation analysts said Tuesday that Florida insurance officials organized the exchange plan rate data in a way that makes it difficult to understand.

“We did spend a lot of time looking at rate filings in Florida, but they’re fairly opaque even for people that know what they are doing,” said Gary Claxton, a vice president for the foundation.

Florida’s rate system was more difficult to follow than other states because some of the insurers have asked to keep portions of the rates from the public, calling them trade secrets. In other cases, it was difficult to tell which region insurers were covering or whether the filings were for bronze, silver or gold plans, Claxton said.

“We would have loved to include Florida if we could figure it out, we just couldn’t figure it out,” he said during a national media call.

State insurance officials said they will release more information on the new rates as it becomes available. The public exchanges are supposed to launch Oct. 1 and the first health coverage sold is supposed to kick in starting in January.

“Other reports and studies include the impact of federal subsidies and (are) not comparable to the premium impact data released by the office. However, a subsidy analysis has been performed by the office and is expected to be released within the next week,” according to a statement from the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation.

Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty said in July that rates will rise an average of 5 to 20 percent for small businesses and 30 to 40 percent in the individual market. But he said those increases are partly due to the fact that consumers will receive more benefits, and the higher costs will be offset by federal subsidies in many cases.

Most of the state’s roughly 3.5 million uninsured residents will not see extreme price hikes, McCarty said.

Critics said McCarty’s statements were a misleading attempt to discredit PPACA, because his office didn’t release figures for the actual plans.

The uncertainty around whether premiums will rise or fall mirrors the political controversy surrounding so-called “Obamacare” as Republicans and Democrats manipulate data to support or jab at the controversial federal health law.

Eleven insurers will offer coverage in the Florida’s individual market, but state insurance officials have said 20 counties will only have coverage from one insurer.

Kaiser analysts said rates will vary not only from state to state, but will also vary significantly within states with residents in big cities likely paying less than those in rural areas.

The rates so far appear to be competitive with current insurance options. Kaiser analysts said the few rates they were able to understand from Florida appeared to fall inside that range.

The new marketplaces will have the feel of an online travel site where individuals, families and small businesses can compare different private insurance plans. Consumers will be able to choose from a variety of plans that offer a range of premiums, deductibles and co-pays depending on variables such as how many doctors you want included in your network. Insurers are offering 308 plans through the exchange in Florida, according to state insurance officials.

Additionally, residents making less than $48,000 a year will receive a federal voucher to help offset premium costs. The less a person makes, the more the government will pay.

Individuals will have to have health insurance from their employer or purchase it, and will pay a roughly $100 penalty next year if they don’t. Anyone making below the poverty line won’t be eligible for federal subsidies through the online marketplace. Federal health officials anticipate roughly 1 million Floridians will fall into a gap where they can’t get health insurance because the state rejected Medicaid expansion.

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