Covered California has announced a 12.4 percent average premium rate increase for some customers enrolling in silver tier plans.
The federal government still hasn't announced whether they'll continue cost-sharing reductions to subsidize public health exchanges, which help keep premium rates down for Covered California shoppers. So on Oct. 11, Covered California announced it would move forward with its contingency plan to add a surcharge to silver products.
Last week, the exchange's executive director Peter V. Lee, said the goal is "to be the least confusing possible, to protect consumers that have subsidies, and protect consumers that get no subsidy from having an unwarranted increase in their prices. We believe that the policy we have in place will do that, and it is not ideal. The ideal thing is for the federal government to act."
The increase for silver enrollees will stack on top of a previously announced 12.5 percent average increase for all shoppers. Some people will get a higher federal tax credit to make up for the increase, but others will have to choose whether they want to take on the extra out-of-pocket costs.
Charles Bacchi of the California Association of Health Plans said last week that making decisions about rates so close to enrollment was unusual. Typically, plans provide information to consumers as far in advance as possible. There are also forms and packets to be mailed out ahead of time.
“We need to be able to get them their notices on time, to give them the ability to decide what their choices are going to be when open enrollment actually opens up," he said
Covered California enrollees can now view their options on an online "Shop and Compare" tool.
The silver tier plans are the only plans in the exchange that were benefiting from the federal cost-sharing reductions, so they'll be the only plans affected by the change.
About 1.4 million Californians buy insurance on the public marketplace.