End of open enrollment puts focus on 2015 rates

As the enrollment deadline to sign up for health insurance draws to a close Monday, insurers already are focusing on next year's rates, which will be released this summer, reports the Los Angeles Times. Headlining the discussion is the number of sicker patients, most notably, how sick they are and the size of their medical bills.

The White House extended the deadline for rate filings from the end of April until the end of May, which allows insurers and their members more time to adapt to healthcare reform regulations, FierceHealthPayer previously reported. WellPoint Inc., parent of California's leading health insurer Anthem Blue Cross, already announced it will seek double-digit plus rate hikes.

Rate increases stem from the Obama administration's many delays and changes to the healthcare reform law, particularly the decision to allow consumers to remain covered under noncompliant plans for two more years.

The noncompliant plan extension also gives more time for healthy consumers to sign up at the last minute, allowing insurers to assess their risk pools, and making firms more comfortable with lower premiums for 2015, reports the National Journal.

"There's no question there is a challenge. For the [federal marketplace], the bids are due at the end of May, and the reason that was pushed back was to give the plans more time to understand what their risk profile actually looks like," Karen Ignagni, the president of America's Health Insurance Plans, told the National Journal.

In the pivotal state of California, rate setting could shape future enrollment, reports the LA Times. "If rates in California increase by 20 percent, enrollment will go down and any healthy people will bail." Robert Laszewski, a healthcare consultant in Virginia, told the newspaper.

For more:
- read the Los Angeles Times article
- here's the National Journal article