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Arminda Murillo, 54, reads a leaflet at a health insurance enrollment event in Cudahy, Calif., March 27, 2014. (REUTERS) Arminda Murillo, 54, reads a leaflet at a health insurance enrollment event in Cudahy, Calif., March 27, 2014. (REUTERS)  

Florida’s Biggest Obamacare Insurer Hiking Premiums Over 17 Percent

Florida’s largest Obamacare exchange health insurer is boosting its premiums by 17.6 percent, a staggering increase for hundreds of thousands of Floridians.

Florida Blue, the Blue Cross Blue Shield insurer in Florida, has the largest market share of any insurer operating on the state’s Obamacare exchange. The company cited higher health costs than expected due to an older customer base which is using more health services than they’d prepared for, according to Kaiser Health News.

Patrick Geraghty, Florida Blue’s CEO, had previously warned that the company was under “tremendous financial pressure” and that they’d be seeking significant hikes. (RELATED: Florida’s Largest Obamacare Insurer: Rate Hikes Coming in 2015) 

“It is far from clear that large enrollment in the marketplace is a financially beneficial place to be,” Geraghty told Kaiser Health News last month.

Florida Blue has attracted a third of all Florida’s Obamacare exchange customers, which number almost 1 million.

Premiums will even be hurting those who chose the typically cheaper health care plans with narrower networks. A full 40 percent of Florida Blue’s customers chose plans with narrow networks, one of the few ways that health insurers can lower their own costs since Obamacare regulations require all plans to cover a wide base of services. (RELATED: Insurer: Obamacare Customers Must Break ‘Choice Habit’)

Narrow networks are expanding, much to the chagrin of Obamacare exchange customer nationwide, because with limited co-pays and bans on charging high-risk patients higher prices, insurers are now struggling to find ways to lower their costs for older, sick patients. Lowering the number of covered health care providers in a plan’s contract can allow insurers to pay lower reimbursement rates while physicians recoup their own losses with higher patient volume.

Even customers with narrow network plans, however, will see a 13 percent rate increase on their exchange plan next year, on average. (RELATED: Obamacare-Forced Narrow Networks Will Spread To The Whole Country, Expert Warns)

Not all insurance companies have released their approve insurance rates; Florida regulators will release rate information for all the exchange’s insurance companies next week.

Humana, however, has proposed a 14.1 percent average hike increase for exchange customers in HMO plans, while PPO plan premiums are being hiked 2.2 percent. Molina, a smaller company, is lowering rates 11.6 percent on average.

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