Texas insurer's 60% premium hike request spurs new worries about ACA plans

In an effort to make up for more than $1 billion in losses over the past two years, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas is seeking a premium increase of nearly 60 percent on Affordable Care Act plans, according to the Associated Press.

Reports from the Texas insurer reflect nationwide predictions that premiums could see double-digit increases in 2017 to account for higher medical and pharmaceutical costs combined with sicker, more expensive patients. A recent analysis of rate filings in nine states indicated increases will range from 5 percent to 44 percent.

BCBS of Texas lost $592 million in 2015 on top of $416 million in 2014, according to the AP. Larry Levitt, of the Kaiser Family Foundation, told the news outlet that these losses likely merit a substantial premium increase, but the insurer noted that higher premiums don't necessarily mean lower value for health plans.

Despite projections that premiums would see widespread double digit increases in 2015, average premiums rose just 8 percent nationally. However, some experts have argued that the national average of premium increases is a "fairly meaningless statistic" compared to the wide variability between states.

White House officials told the AP that nationwide concerns about 2017 premiums are premature and overblown. Consumers throughout the country will have lower-premium choices if they don't like what their current insurer charges when the next open enrollment period begins in November, the administration said. 

For more:
- here's the AP story