WASHINGTON — The only insurance company in Oklahoma offering subsidized health care has notified federal and state officials it tentatively intends to continue the coverage for low- and middle-income individuals next year.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma did so in meeting a deadline last week under the Affordable Care Act for a preliminary filing of proposed rates for 2018.
But the company still has until this fall to decide if it wants to drop out of the federal program because of anticipated losses that could occur due to higher rates, too few healthy policy holders and other circumstances.
Insurers are not required to publicly disclose proposed rates in preliminary filings. Final rates are approved by the federal Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services, which said it would not release the Oklahoma details until August.
Insurance companies have been pulling out of the subsidized insurance feature of Obamacare in several states and counties because of heavy financial losses incurred from coverage of sick and needy individuals.
A few states, such as Oklahoma and Iowa, have been left with only one insurance company offering subsidized coverage.
Kristen Cunningham, spokeswoman for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma, said earlier the company’s preliminary filing was “based on information we have today.” She said the company’s intent is “to continue to provide health insurance options for consumers” within the federal program.
But Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak said in a statement Friday there is “an incredible amount of uncertainty” in Oklahoma due to the “major losses” suffered by insurers participating in Obamacare.
“While we expect a full repeal of this disastrous experiment,” Doak said, “insurers have to go by the regulations in place right now. That’s why we’ve seen too many insurers dropping out of the exchanges across the country or resorting to double-digit premium increases.”
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma raised health insurance rates by 76 percent last year, although the increase was offset by federal subsidies to individuals who could not afford the higher cost.
Citing the uncertainty in Washington regarding the future of national health care, several insurance companies have already said they will seek double-digit premium increases in various states next year.
Insurers in Connecticut, Maryland, Vermont, Virginia, and the District of Columbia, which have earlier deadlines to file for rate increases, are seeking premiums hikes between 6 and 50 percent, said Georgetown University’s Center on Health Insurance Reforms.
President Donald Trump and Republican congressional leaders have pointed to the rate increases and departures from the exchange markets as proof Obamacare is imploding and needs to be replaced.
Democrats, though, blame Republicans for an inability to pass a health-care bill to improve the situation. They have also accused Trump of trying to make the health-care system collapse by not encouraging more healthy people to sign up for coverage and refusing to guarantee subsidies to insurance companies.
Contact Washington reporter Kery Murakami at email@example.com.