With Obamacare in doubt, California asks insurers to double up on rate filings

A sidewalk sign points to the emergency entrance at the University of San Diego Health System in La Jolla, California, U.S., March 23, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Health insurers seeking regulatory approval for 2018 individual insurance plans can file two sets of premium rates as a way to deal with market uncertainty created by Republicans’ promise to repeal and replace Obamacare, a California state insurance regulator said on Friday.

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones told insurers in a letter made public on Friday that they can file a set of lower rates based on the continued enforcement of the Affordable Care Act, Democratic former President Barack Obama’s signature legislation, and the continuation of government subsidies next year.

Insurers can also file rates that reflect uncertainty over the continuation of Obama-era policies, he said, by specifying the costs associated with losing the government funding for cost-sharing subsidies that members use to reduce out-of-pocket expenses and the requirement that all Americans have insurance.

Jones said that the move would enable insurers to file lower rates as well as the higher rates he expects them to submit.

The California Department of Insurance said rates are due on May 1 for individual insurance. The state is one of about a dozen that run its own online exchange where residents can buy these subsidized plans. Other states use the federal system and rates are due in June.

Insurers have warned that they need more certainty to file 2018 rates this spring. Anthem Inc Chief Executive Joseph Swedish said on Wednesday that he was telling states that he may raise rates by more than 20 percent or pull out of markets for 2018 if he does not have more information by June.

Molina Healthcare Inc CEO Mario Molina said in a letter to Congress on Thursday that he was ready to pull out of the market altogether and drop up to 700,000 customers as soon as this year.

Reporting by Caroline Humer; Editing by Bill Rigby