After years of double-digit hikes, Texas’ largest health insurer to cut Obamacare premiums
There have been countless stories about Obamacare, but here’s something you haven’t read before: Premiums are falling in Texas.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas plans to cut 2019 premiums by 6.1 percent, according to a filing with HealthCare.gov, the federal website that sells individual plans. While others are raising rates here, Blue Cross is the state’s largest insurer and the only option on the exchange in dozens of Texas counties.
The price cut is its first since the Affordable Care Act went into full effect in 2014, and hundreds of thousands of residents stand to benefit after open enrollment begins in November. Those with the most to gain are exchange customers who receive the smallest federal subsidies to offset the cost of premiums. Their savings could easily run into hundreds of dollars a year.
Blue Cross lost over $1 billion on exchange business in Texas in the first two years of Obamacare. It badly underestimated the risk of covering patients who had been uninsured and had to make some big changes.
Last year, it increased premiums on the exchange over 20 percent, which followed a 48 percent increase the year before. Earlier, it also dropped the preferred provider option and narrowed its network, excluding brand names such as UT Southwestern Medical Center and the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.
The efforts appear to be paying off. Results have improved steadily and contributed to a major turnaround at its Chicago-based parent, Health Care Service Corp.
“They’re figuring out the market,” said Chris Sloan, director at Avalere Health, a research and consulting company in Washington. “They’ve raised premiums enough to cover costs, and they have the products to manage this population.