Health Care

Florida Blue will sell Obamacare plans statewide in 2018

Florida Blue, the state’s largest health insurer, announced this week that it plans to stay in the individual market and sell coverage in all 67 counties next year — despite the uncertainty over the future of the Affordable Care Act.
Florida Blue, the state’s largest health insurer, announced this week that it plans to stay in the individual market and sell coverage in all 67 counties next year — despite the uncertainty over the future of the Affordable Care Act. Miami Herald Staff

The future of the Affordable Care Act may be uncertain, but Florida’s largest health insurer, Florida Blue, announced this week that the company intends to stay in the individual market and sell coverage in all 67 counties next year.

Florida Blue executives said they expect the Trump Administration will continue to fund cost sharing reduction subsidies that help low-income consumers pay for out-of-pocket expenses, such as co-payments and deductibles. But the insurer will raise premiums about 20 percent on average if those subsidies are discontinued, said Penny Shaffer, market president for South Florida.

“We’re filing rates assuming those will be in place for 2018,” Shaffer said, noting that Florida Blue covers about one million Floridians in the state’s individual market, which is where people buy health insurance when they don’t get it through a job or a government program.

An estimated 1.7 million Floridians signed up for an ACA plan in 2017, though the Trump administration this week released enrollment data showing that only about 1.4 million had paid their first month’s premium.

Among Floridians with effective coverage, about 1.3 million or 93 percent received financial aid to pay their monthly premiums. About one million or 75 percent of Floridians who were enrolled in an ACA plan also qualified for financial aid available to low-income Americans to reduce their out-of-pocket costs.

“The fight here is to make sure that we are able to protect and preserve affordable coverage for those people,” Shaffer said.

Florida Blue hasn’t yet filed rates or other details for 2018 coverage the company will sell on the ACA exchange at healthcare.gov. Plan rates are due to the state’s Office of Insurance Regulation on June 21 and are expected to become public after they are locked in August.

Shaffer wouldn’t say how much premiums will rise in 2018 compared to the current year. But she said Florida Blue announced its intention to stay in the market in order to reassure consumers.

“There’s a fair amount of uncertainty in the marketplace,” she said, “and the only piece of that whole message that we can control in any way is the reassurance so that individuals understand what our commitment is to the 67 counties.”

Many insurers, including Aetna, Humana and United Health, have largely retreated from the insurance exchanges created by the health law known as Obamacare after losing money.

Florida Blue is making money, Shaffer said, calling its profit margin “conservatively positive.”

Also Tuesday, health insurer Centene announced plans to begin offering ACA coverage on exchanges in Missouri, Kansas and Nevada — and to broaden its presence in Florida, though the company did not specify where it will expand.

Daniel Chang: 305-376-2012, @dchangmiami

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