Tennessee's insurance regulator approved hefty rate increases for the three carriers on the Obamacare exchange in an attempt to stabilize the already-limited number of insurers in the state.
The rate approvals, while a tough decision, were necessary to ensure that consumers around the state had options when open enrollment begins in November, said Julie Mix McPeak, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee is the only insurer to sell statewide and there was the possibility that Cigna and Humana would reduce their footprints or leave the market altogether.
"I would characterize the exchange market in Tennessee as very near collapse ... and that all of our efforts are really focused on making sure we have as many writers in the areas as possible, knowing that might be one. I'm doing everything I can to prevent a situation where that turns to zero," McPeak said to The Tennessean.
Cigna and Humana both refiled their requests earlier this month after telling the TDCI that the first requests were likely too low.
McPeak said insurers asked for the opportunity to refile rates last year but she said no. This year, however, was different because many of areas of the state will only have one or two choices.
"I felt like I didn't have any choice but to allow them to refile their rates," said McPeak, who is concerned about the limited number of insurers..
Cigna asked for and received an average 46.3 percent increase.
Humana asked for and received an average 44.3 percent increase.
BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, which did not refile its request, asked for and received a 62 percent increase.
The increases underscore the complex environment of the exchange. People who buy plans on the exchange are heavier users of services than anticipated. In addition, there are changes to federal transitional programs in 2017 that will impact insurers financially.
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