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30% Rate Hike in Individual Market?

Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty is holding a public hearing today to discuss next year's health insurance rates, which are expected to climb sharply in the individual-purchase market. The public hearing is being televised and live-streamed by The Florida Channel today at 1 p.m., according to a release from the Office of Insurance Regulation.

Only a small fraction of Floridians are in the individual market.  Most insured Floridians -- aside from the millions enrolled in Medicare or Medicaid -- are covered by their employers as a large group (more than 50). 

In an interview with the Palm Beach Post published Tuesday, McCarty said the individual market will see rate increases of 30 to 40 percent for next year.  (Editor's note: This article is available only to Palm Beach Post subscribers.) The increase in rates for small-group plans is forecast to be smaller, more in line with those of past years, he said.

The steep increase in the individual market reflects the fact that under the Affordable Care Act, companies will no longer be able to screen out customers who need health insurance the most -- the sick and those individuals who have had health problems in the past.   The ACA also requires healthy people to enroll before they get sick, to set up a more stable market.

It’s a measure of how difficult it has been for Florida adults with pre-existing conditions that the state’s rates will rise so much for individuals, Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty told the Post.

New York and other states that required companies to price their products by "community rating," which is what the price would be if everyone had insurance, are seeing steep decreases in rates in the individual market.

Originally founded in December 2006 as an independent grassroots publication dedicated to coverage of health issues in Florida, Health News Florida was acquired by WUSF Public Media in September 2012.