Setting The Record Straight On Obamacare Impact On Premiums

By Ryan Schuster

There has been plenty of confusion about the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) and how it will impact our members and all North Dakotans. As part of our ongoing efforts to inform members about the new law, Rod St. Aubyn, our manager of Government Relations, recently wrote a guest blog on about why we think it would be better for North Dakota to have more say in how the state’s insurance exchange is run.








Rod was also interviewed by Rob Port of about the impact of Obamacare. Some of you may have read the headline of that blog — “Interview: Blue Cross Blue Shield of ND Says Insurance Premiums May Double Under Obamacare” — or saw it on Twitter. Since there is so much confusion surrounding the topic, we thought it was important to let everyone know that we are NOT saying that we expect insurance premiums to double for all — or even most — of our members under the new law (a YouTube video of the interview is posted below).

As Rob Port wrote in the blog post, a rough estimate we have been using shows about a 15% increase in premiums for group or employer policies and as much as a 75-100% increase in premiums for individual policies. The doubling of premiums that the headline refers to is only for individual policies and is an early high-end estimate. These projected premium impacts were calculated to be spread out from the law’s passage in 2010 until 2016 and reflect some premium increases that have already taken place (no members would see premiums double overnight and any premium increases would need to first be approved by the North Dakota Insurance Department). These numbers were an early rough estimate as many parameters of the law haven’t been defined by the government or were only recently released. North Dakotans making up to 400% of the federal poverty level will also be eligible for federal government subsidies when purchasing insurance on the state exchange, which would help them offset premium increases.

As a nonprofit member-owned company, we make every effort to avoid raising our members’ premiums. The projected premium increases are a result of cost increases from added mandated coverage in the law, higher taxes on insurance companies and tighter restrictions on how much more insurance companies can charge older people who tend to use more health care services than younger, generally healthier people in individual policies. We will continue to evaluate how the law will impact our members as we learn more and will share that with you as more info becomes available.

We would like to thank Rob and SayAnythingBlog for helping us get the word out and encouraging discussion of this important topic. Despite having some of the lowest administrative costs in the industry, we are working hard to become more efficient and are leading efforts to improve the state’s health care system and tackle the rising costs of care that are the primary driver of premiums. Check out our health reform site, which has many more resources. Do you have any other questions about the health care law for Rod or me? If so, please leave them in the comments below.

Ryan Schuster is an editor in the Communications department at Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota.