Monday, January 08, 2018 by Isabelle Z.
Virginia residents have a big motivation to make getting healthy part of their new year’s resolution as reports indicate that health insurance premiums in the state’s individual marketplace could rise by as much as 265 percent in 2017.
An Affordable Care Act filing from the Virginia State Corporation Commission shows that Optima Health Plan customers have a maximum allowable premium increase of 265.5 percent, which is the biggest increase in the state’s individual market for the year. Some health plans from Life Insurance Company and Cigna Health, meanwhile, are set to increase by 168.6 percent in 2018.
If none of those increases apply to you, you’re not out of the woods yet: Group Hospitalization and Medical Services, Inc. customers are facing maximum allowable increases of 213.2 percent next year, while CareFirst BlueChoice, Inc. clients should expect to pay 162.5 percent more in 2018 than they did in 2017.
Some Piedmont Community HealthCare HMO enrollees will be paying 161.7 percent more this year, while Kaiser Foundation Health Plan customers must shell out 107.8 percent more. Even the smallest rise noted is far from modest: HealthKeepers, Inc. customers will be required to fork over 64.1 percent more this year. The national average for 2018 premium hikes in the individual market is 37 percent.
In Hawaii, higher costs will be seen across the board, with those who use health plans under the Affordable Care Act seeing far higher increases in their rates than those who receive health coverage through their employers. There, 34,000 people who are enrolled in Kaiser’s ACA health plan or HMSA will see premium hikes of 24.1 percent and 19.8 percent on average, respectively.
It’s not surprising that health care costs are rising when you consider the steep price hikes that Big Pharma has instituted in recent years. In one instance, a life-saving medication for a type of muscular dystrophy went up more than 7,000-fold last year. In recent months, a drug for periodic paralysis went from being free to costing more than $100,000 per year, while the price of the popular life-saving EpiPens climbed from $57 to over $700 in 2016. Another drug, the life-extending cancer medication Lomustine, recently saw a price hike of 1,400 percent, and there are countless other stories of this type of price-gouging. Therefore, it comes as little surprise that health care costs are on the rise in Virginia and the nation at large.
The problem is only likely to get worse given the new blood pressure guidelines designed to make more people fall into the category of “high blood pressure.” It’s a clever move, with 30 million Americans suddenly finding themselves falling into the high blood pressure category even if their personal blood pressure numbers haven’t changed and therefore feeling like they need some type of medication. Big Pharma pulled a similar move a few years ago when the range for “high cholesterol” was widened to encompass more individuals and boost the sales of statins. It’s one of their favorite tactics to generate more profits, and all of us are paying the price for it.
Will these across-the-board hikes inspire more people to take better care of their health this year? There are so many ways that individuals can reduce their risk for disease that are affordable and easy to implement, like eating healthy food and getting regular exercise, even if it’s just walking around your neighborhood every day. With Big Pharma constantly seeking ways to exploit our nation’s “sick care” economy, the best way to protect yourself is by avoiding getting sick in the first place.
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