Fewer Options, Higher Rates On Arizona's 2017 Health-Care Exchange

By Will Stone
Published: Tuesday, October 18, 2016 - 4:56pm
Updated: Tuesday, October 18, 2016 - 5:17pm
(Courtesy of Healthcare.gov)
More than 120,000 Arizonans used the Marketplace to get insurance last year.

Arizonans will have fewer options at higher rates when they buy coverage for 2017 on the federal health insurance exchange.

This week, the Arizona Department of Insurance released details about the plans and rates being offered on the marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act.

Maricopa County will only have one insurer on the exchange, Health Net, which is offering four plans and raising rates by nearly 75 percent.

“It’s definitely on the high side. There's no question about that, but Arizona is not the only one with significant, more than 50 percent increases," insurance analyst Jim Hammond, publisher of the Hertel Report, said.

St. Louis-based insurance company Centene owns Health Net and will be selling its HMO plans under the title "Ambetter." Centene also plans to partner with insurer Cigna and offer its network of doctors and nurses to those who purchase Centene's plans.

The number of carriers on Maricopa's exchange has dwindled in recent years. Two years ago, there were 12 carriers. Last year, that number dropped to 8. Now with only one left, more than 150,000 policyholders in the state's most populous county will have to find new plans for next year.

About 85 percent of Arizonans on the exchange qualify for subsidies. Those who don’t will feel the rate hikes the most.

The biggest challenges for most people buying coverage will be switching plans and finding new doctors.

“Folks are going to have to deal with their provider relationships becoming upset or discontinued because these are HMO products that have very limited benefits out of network," Hammond said.

In the rest of Arizona’s counties, except for Pima, Blue Cross and Blue Shield will be the only insurer. Those rates are going up 51 percent.

Other insurers will be offering plans off the exchange this year, but most are also raising rates by about 70 percent.

Open enrollment begins Nov. 1.