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Northern Californians who get their health insurance through Covered California will see their premiums jump by 33.2 percent in 2018. That’s more than two-and-a-half times the statewide average increase of 12.5 percent announced yesterday.

But Covered California officials say consumers may not have to foot that bill themselves if they switch plans or qualify for increased federal subsidies. 

“Almost 55 percent of consumers will either be able to pay less or see their rate go up by no more than 5 percent if they switch plans,” says the Covered California report issued Tuesday.

For our “pricing region,” a 22-county area spread across far-northern California, the report says the federal government should be kicking down more in subsidies to offset some of the increased cost next year.

Brian Senteney, a health insurance agent with Paul Nicklas Associates in Eureka, said these changes won’t affect Medicare supplements or anyone who gets insurance through their employers. He also noted that there’s an out-of-pocket cap on costs for people who earn up to 250 percent of the federal poverty level.

“People may not see an increase once their tax returns are done and sent in to Covered California,” Senteney said. He also noted that people should contact their specialists and providers to make sure they’re still contracting through Covered California.

With Congressional Republicans’ failed attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and President Donald Trump’s recent threats to sabotage the program, health insurance companies are hedging their bets. Covered California officials cited “unprecedented uncertainty” in the market as a factor in the rate hikes. Covered California, the state’s ACA insurance exchange program, is in its fourth year of operation.

According to Covered California officials, 56,187 individuals in our region either renewed or signed up for coverage under the program last year. 

Meanwhile, Anthem Blue Cross announced that it’s ending coverage in most of the state, though Humboldt is in one of the three regions where the company will remain.

Image courtesy Covered California

Humboldt County customers have just two options for insurance companies through Covered California — Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of California. Anthem rates are projected to jump between 20 percent and 54 percent next year while Blue Shield premiums will increase by 10 percent to 24 percent.

Covered California officials report that 91 percent of people in our region insured through the exchange receive financial assistance to pay their premiums.

The overall number of uninsured in the state has dropped significantly since Covered California began offering health care coverage, going from 17 percent at the end of 2013 to 7.1 percent at the end of last year.

“As a result,” yesterday’s report says, “the uninsured rate is dropping faster in California compared to the nation and stands at the lowest level on record.”