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Open enrollment questions can be answered at BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina's Retail Center in Mount Pleasant. File/Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina wants to increase premiums as much as 13 percent for insurance plans sold on HealthCare.gov.

BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina is the only health insurance company that sells plans through the federal marketplace in this state. Rates for the new plans, which must comply with the Affordable Care Act, have not yet been approved by the S.C. Department of Insurance. 

The proposed rate increases for the 2019 plans, if approved, would be modest compared to increases in past years. Last year, for example, BlueCross BlueShield requested to increase rates for some plans by 33 percent. 

Health insurance companies submit their requests for price increases every year. Across the country, health insurers have explained the hikes help them keep up with the rising health care costs and uncertainties in the market. 

The premium increases would range from about 3 percent to 13 percent, depending on the plan. The customer's county of residence and tobacco use status also affects prices.

The S.C. Department of Insurance can negotiate the hikes down, but in the past the agency has generally approved rate increases requested by companies.

A spokesman for BlueCross BlueShield said the company does not comment on the rate increases while they are still under review. 

In its proposal, the health insurer said the increase is meant to cover higher medical costs. Hospitals and physicians are charging more and a greater number of people covered are seeking medical attention. Prescriptions are also getting more expensive.

The prices for plans sold on HealthCare.gov have generally increased every year since 2013 when the federal marketplace opened for business.

But some customers in nearby North Carolina may actually see prices drop next year. And in Nevada, Affordable Care Act plans will only see slight increases after years of double-digit hikes, according to the Associated Press

Open enrollment for 2019 plans starts Nov. 1. 

Reach Mary Katherine Wildeman at 843-937-5594. Follow her on Twitter @mkwildeman.