CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia Insurance Commissioner Allan McVey said the state Insurance Commission was able to negotiate rate increases  “as best they could” for health insurance offered in the state’s insurance marketplace.

The commission recently approved a 25.6 percent increase for coverage provided by Highmark West Virginia and a 19.6 percent increase for insurance from CareSource Insurance. Highmark West Virginia offers coverage statewide, while CareSource only offers insurance for residents of 32 counties.

More than 37,000 people currently have insurance purchased through the exchange program. Eight-five percent of people that purchase individual coverage receive a subsidy to assist in paying premiums and reducing deductibles.

McVey said the rate increases are because of medical cost inflation as well as the state’s demographics.

West Virginia Offices of the Insurance Commissioner

West Virginia Insurance Commissioner
Allan McVey

“The cost of care keeps continuing to increase,” he said. “Of course, we have an older population that is not as healthy as some other states.”

McVey noted West Virginia is not the only state struggling with the insurance marketplace, adding he has heard projections of rate increases between 50 and 80 percent in other parts of the United States.

“The market is so uncertain about this and they don’t know what to do,” he added. “If someone were to give the market some certainty in stabilizing the plans we have, I think it would work out for the benefit of everyone.”

President Donald Trump signed an executive order Thursday regarding the expansion of association health plans and short-term coverage. The executive order requests the Departments of Labor, Treasury and Health and Human Services draft regulations to increase the availability of these options.

U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., applauded the move, saying in a statement it will help lower premiums and provide more insurance options for families and businesses.

“This executive order is an important step toward more affordable health care premiums, more competition and more choices – putting patients in control of their healthcare needs,” Jenkins said.

McVey said Congress has another option to decrease rates: assure cost-sharing subsidies are continued into next year

“If we can get some certainty in the marketplace by having Congress pass some legislation and the president signing it, those subsidies will continue through 2018,” he said. “Both companies are willing to give us new rate filings at approximately 15 percent of those total points less of what they are.”

McVey added if the subsidy payments are guaranteed by the federal government, the increases would instead be around 14 percent for Highmark West Virginia and 7 percent for CareSource.

“If someone can give the market some certainty in stabilizing the plans we have, I think it would work out for the benefit of everyone,” he continued.

Open enrollment for 2018 begins Nov. 1.

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