Health insurance for 2016 brings unwelcome change

The health insurance market offers few choices, higher rates and more paperwork for Pennsylvania’s individuals and small businesses in 2016.

Prices for individual and small group health insurance health insurance planningplans are rising significantly for most Pennsylvanians next year. Highmark plans offered through the Health Insurance Marketplace will have the largest price increases, some as high as 26% over last year’s rates. Highmark took the majority of the state’s high risk applicants who bought subsidized coverage through the exchange and suffered large claim losses on those policies. Meanwhile, many younger healthier applicants did not buy this type of coverage and will pay a penalty tax instead. Some opted for less expensive insurance that does not meet Obamacare requirements or satisfy the requirement to avoid a penalty tax.

Most individual and group health insurance plans will raise rates by less than 10%. Even at these more modest levels of price increase, health insurance remains the fastest growing expense for many individuals and small businesses in Pennsylvania. United Healthcare, also a major provider of coverage through the exchange announced that it is pulling back offering that coverage. Although it is too late to withdraw from the market for 2016, United Healthcare will not be promoting its products and so consumers may have trouble getting the support they need to enroll in these plans.

Also new for 2015: many small business firms with less than 50 employees have to modify their plans to meet new IRS requirements or pay a heavy excise tax for 2015. Firms in the 50-100 employee range have a large amount of new documentation and filing requirements for tax filing this season.

Freedom Benefits recommends that individuals or small businesses that do not have a strategy for dealing with these changes should arrange a health plan review as soon as possible. This service is reasonable priced, especially if handled through a remote or telephone consultation, and could save thousands over the coming months.


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