New York State Exposed: Health insurance rate hike

Updated: 07/14/2014 6:30 PM
Created: 07/14/2014 6:25 AM WHEC.com
By: Berkeley Brean

Imagine buying something to protect your family and then less than a year later, you are told the price of that protection is going up more than 20 percent. That is what is happening with people who brought health insurance last year as a part of the Affordable Care Act. 

They got a letter from their insurance company warning them about the increase. Now it is up to New York State to either let this increase stand or lower it.

Michelle Vergilia couldn't believe it when she opened the letter. Her health insurance premium is going up 22 percent. It is a significant amount of money for a family with a four-year-old.

Michelle Vergilia, MVP customer, said, “I was led to believe the price would be one thing for a service. That is one thing and not even six months down the road, it is changed.”

So News10NBC asked MVP how they can increase the cost of a family’s healthcare plan by more than 20 percent, less than a year after they bought it. 

Georganne Chapin, MVP VP, said, “We're struggling with the same issues that all insurance carriers are, which is rising costs.”

But 22 percent in one year, how is that fair?

MVP is not alone. There is a laundry list of insurance companies in New York State asking for rate increases. Excellus is asking for 16 to 20 percent increases. 

So why is this happening?

The insurance companies say it is the cost of drugs, medical equipment, chronic illnesses and the Affordable Care Act. One million people bought insurance on the Affordable Care Act Exchange in New York last year and now they are using the healthcare system. 

Chapin said, “What we hope to see is some kind of reduction in the rate of increase, but healthcare costs continue to go up for MVP and for everybody else and very unfortunately for consumers.”

Berkeley Brean asked, “I thought the Affordable Care Act was supposed to make healthcare less expensive, not more expensive.”

Nancy Adams, Monroe County Medical Society said, “And given that affordable is in the name of the Affordable Care Act, one would think that.”

Nancy Adams runs the Monroe County Medical Society and says it is not unusual to see costs go up when more people use the system. 

Adams said, “I'm not here to defend insurance companies. These are the realities of what we are dealing with in terms of cost.”

The rate increases are just proposals right now. It is ultimately up to the Department of Financial Services to determine how big the rates can be. The state legislature has no direct control over it. 

Vergilia said, “They should be able to have a say in it. It should nott be a dictatorship. It really shouldn't be.”

News10NBC wanted to talk to the Department of Financial Services and its director Benjamin Lawsky about their decisions. News10NBC emailed and phoned his office in New York City for an interview repeatedly. He and the department did not want to talk to us. 

But in a standard email to Michelle Vergilia after she complained, Department of Financial Services said it "shares your concern over the magnitude of the premium increase" and it is "closely scrutinizing" the request.”

The email also warns that “approving rates that are inadequate would ultimately imperil the insurer's ability to pay claims as they come due." These rate increases are just proposals. 

The state has to sign off on them. 

If you're concerned about the size of the proposed increases, call the Department of Financial Services a t 1-800-342-3736.

Want to let the governor know how you feel? His number is 518-474-8390. 

Click here for a link to the New York State Senate Insurance Committee

Click here for a link to the New York State Assembly Insurance Committee

Here's what you can do to help your health insurance budget

We wanted to put together a few of options for you that can help reduce the impact of healthcare cost increases next year.

1) Start talking to your insurance company now about their plans for 2015. There may be a less expensive option that provides some of the same coverage and you can get that during open enrollment in the fall. 

2) Talk with your insurance company and your HR department at work about starting a health savings account (HSA). That is pre-tax money you can use on health care related expenses. You may have to get a particular health insurance policy for that. 

3) Eat right, exercise, live healthy. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes account for 75 percent of all the health care money spent in this country. That's $1.7 trillion every year. 

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