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Premium hikes expected on public health insurance exchanges

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Based on proposed insurer filings, premiums for popular health plans offered in public exchanges in 14 metropolitan areas will rise by an average of 10%, according to an analysis released Wednesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The analysis, based on insurer filings and not on final approval by state regulators, found wide variations in proposed rate hikes for so-called lower cost silver plans.

For example, the analysis projects rate increases of 18% in the Portland, Oregon, area to a decrease of 13% in the Providence, Rhode Island, area.

What consumers actually pay in premiums will depend on their willingness to shop around for coverage. For example, the study notes that Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island is proposing to raise in 2017 to $272 from $263 the monthly premium that a 40-year-old would pay for single coverage for a popular silver plan.

On the other hand, another insurer, Neighborhood Health Plan, according to the study, will offer a comparable plan for $229 a month.

Few exchange enrollees, though, pay the full premium. That is because those making between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level are eligible for health care reform law premium subsidies. For example, subsidies are available in 2016 for a family of four collectively earning up to $97,000.

More than 80% of exchanges enrollees receive premium subsidies, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Just under 13 million people signed up earlier this year to receive coverage through the exchanges.

Insurers have said rates need to increase because health care claim costs have been much higher than expected.