Floridians who signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act will see premium increases averaging about 13.2 percent for 2015, according to data provided to the state Office of Insurance Regulation. Fourteen companies have filed to participate in the federal health insurance marketplace in Florida next year. Three of those are newcomers and did not participate in the inaugural year of President Barack Obama's signature legislation.
Of the 11 returning companies, eight filed average rate increases ranging from 11 percent to 23 percent, and three filed rate decreases ranging from 5 percent to 12 percent.
Florida Blue, the state's largest health insurer, filed for an 18 percent hike.
Steven Hendricks, a spokesman for the Florida Blue in Tampa, said the rate hike reflects the demographics of the insurance pool. He said when healthier consumers kept their existing plans in the Affordable Care Act's first year, the sickest and most expensive consumers turned to marketplace plans.
But Hendricks said a person's individual situation - age, family size, whether he or she smokes, where they live - is the key driver of the price of a policy.
The Florida Community Health Action Information Network, or Florida CHAIN, a key advocate for the Obama health care program, said the Office of Insurance Regulation numbers reveal "nothing, except the extent to which the entity responsible for protecting Florida consumers is in a frenzied rush to mislead them as well as to assume their own conclusions."
Opponents of the Affordable Care Act , including Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican-dominated Florida Legislature, have repeated that the Obama project would lead to higher insurance rates. The issue is expected to become a key talking point for Republicans in the upcoming election cycle.
With the passage of the Affordable Care Act , lawmakers stripped the Office of Insurance Regulation of its authority to approve, modify or reject rate hike requests by health insurance companies.
The state insurance regulators provided examples of how it said the rate hike requests might affect two different consumers. A family of four earning $51,000 a year in Hillsborough County with a monthly federal subsidy and a "silver" plan paid an average premium of $470 this year; that would rise to $533, the insurance regulators said. An individual earning $27,000 in Hillsborough paid $220 this year, with the premium rising to $238 next year.
But Florida CHAIN said the office's methodology is "misleading and manipulated." The group said data from the Department of Health and Human Services showed that the average Floridian purchasing a plan in the marketplace using tax credits paid a premium of $68 a month in 2014.
"It's essential that Floridians understand that the numbers in these scenarios tell them very little or nothing about the premiums that they will actually pay next year," Florida CHAIN said in a statement after the release of the numbers.
The 13.2 percent average increase reported by the Office of Insurance Regulation was much lower than last year's figure. It comes on the heels of a 37 percent average increase in combined individual and small group plan rates for 2014.
Open enrollment for 2015 plans will be Nov. 15 through Feb. 15.