Ray Farmer performs a checkup twice monthly on the four health insurance agencies operating on the federal health care exchange, he told a group of approximately 60 insurance and technology business leaders Wednesday. Two Blue Cross and Blue Shield divisions, Coventry Health Care of the Carolinas, and Consumers’ Choice Health Insurance Company sell insurance on the federal exchange under the Affordable Care Act.
Farmer, who heads the state Department of Insurance, said he expects rates to increase 50 to 75 percent since implementation of the federal law. “Now I hope that’s all they go up,” he said. It’s too early to tell whether rates will increase further, he said after the event. Farmer expects that data later this year.
As of June, 98,000 people in South Carolina have chosen a plan and paid their premiums. The federal government reports that 125,000 have enrolled, said Farmer, but not all of those have selected a plan and paid for it.
Of the 98,000 insured, 84 percent have a subsidy to help with the cost of insurance. The average age of those insured on the federal exchange is 42, compared to the average age of 35 for those insured off of the exchange.
Farmer championed the decision by Gov. Nikki Haley and lawmakers to reject setting up a state exchange—a separate marketplace where consumers can buy insurance—because of the expense. Fifteen of the 17 states that set up an exchange are expected to continue running their exchanges as of the coming year. He cited Oregon as one failure of state-run exchanges—that state spent $255 million, but still needs $41 million to keep up the exchange. But Farmer fears that federal money for operational costs won’t be available for states going forward.
The Columbia Insurance Technology and Services Cluster and New Carolina hosted the event. The cluster is a division of New Carolina—a public-private partnership for economic development.