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Pennsylvania’s Largest Obamacare Insurer Hiking Premiums

Now Pennsylvania’s largest health insurer is reporting that it’s hiking premiums for individual Obamacare policies by double digits in 2015.

Highmark Inc., Pennsylvania’s Blue Cross Blue Shield insurer, is requesting to increase its prices for 180,000 people in the fall. They’ve requested increases of between 13.4 percent and 15 percent, according to Pennsylvania’s Trib Live(RELATED: Biggest North Carolina Insurer Ups Obamacare Premiums By Double-Digits)

The Pennsylvania state insurance department reviews health insurance rate increases above 10 percent. So far, Geisinger Health is looking to hike prices between 14.8 percent and 19.4 percent and Independence Blue Cross is asking for a 14.9 percent boost. Aetna and UPMC Helath Plan do not have any public filings.

Pennsylvania’s Obamacare exchange, which is run by the federal government through HealthCare.gov, doesn’t yet have any complete information on 2015 rates, although the next open enrollment period is just weeks away. The Obama administration will not release rates for HealthCare.gov states until after the November elections.

Highmark sold 131,000 policies on the state’s Obamacare exchange for 2014, and another 46,000 in the private individual market in Pennsylvania. Last year, it had the lowest rates of all the Obamacare insurers in the state, and despite the significant hikes it hopes to keep its place.

“They didn’t know who was going to enroll, so it was almost impossible to evaluate the risk” when pricing the plans for Obamacare’s debut last fall, said health care consultant James McTiernan. The requested rate hike is “a fairly big number, but they should still be pretty competitive.”

Unsurprisingly, Highmark attributed the cost increases to the disproportionately sick and costly-to-insure customers.

“People had pent-up demands for care, and they were fairly large users of services last year,” Highmark spokesman Aaron Billger said.

But the increases are not as high as they could have been, according to the company. Pennsylvania accepted the Obama administration’s “administrative fix” to allow non-compliant Obamacare plans stay in operation, but Highmark is ending most of its old plans for 2015.

It’s ending four out of five of its extended plans, according to Billger, but did not specify how many more Pennsylvanians will have their plans cancelled. Highmark’s move to discontinue the plans will likely push more healthy, previously insured customers into the exchange pool, mitigating what could have been an even larger hike.

Those who plans are being cancelled will have also have to pay higher prices, however, for plans that offer more services.

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