State regulators approve rate cuts, modest increases 2020 Obamcare plans

The website main page. The Trump administration is clearing the way for insurers to sell short-term health plans as a bargain alternative to pricey "Obamacare" for consumers struggling with high premiums. But the policies don't have to cover pre-existing conditions and benefits are limited. It's not certain if that's going to translate into broad consumer appeal among people who need an individual policy. (HHS via AP)
photo Graphic provided by the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance

For only the second time since ObamaCare was adopted nearly a decade ago, individual insurance rates will decrease for some Tennesseans next year if federal regulators approve the final rates proposed for next year.

Tennessee regulators said Monday they have approved rate cuts for individual insurance plans for 2020 by Cigna of 5.6%, by Oscar Health of 8.3% and by Celtic/Ambetter Insurance of 1.6%.

Tennessee's biggest health insurer, the Chattanooga-based BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, will raise its premiums for individual plans under Obamacare by only 1.4% next year following this year's rate cuts of 14.8%.

BlueCross also plans to re-enter the Obamacare marketplace in and around Nashville and Memphis next year after seeing greater stability under the Affordable Care Act market following early losses of more than $400 million under Obamacare plans. Last year, BlueCross earned a record $569 million from all of its company operations, including profits from its Obamacare plans for one of the first times.

Cigna also plans to expand its coverage next year into the Chattanooga and Jackson markets for the first time.

The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance approved the insurance rates requested by the five carriers offering coverage on the Federally Facilitated Marketplace next year.

"The approved rate filing requests for 2020 benefit Tennessee's working families by offering them an increased number of coverage choices and a tighter range of prices," Tennessee's interim Insurance Commissioner Carter Lawrence said in Monday's announcement. "Three of the five insurance carriers are expanding their coverage areas. Additionally, the department has approved premium rate decreases from market participants for just the second time in the ACA marketplace era. The increased insurance choices and lower prices perfectly fit Gov. (Bill) Lee's campaign promise to help support Tennessee families when it comes to more insurance choices and reduced costs."

The rates approved for the individual insurance market in 2020 include:

» BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee. Statewide coverage includes adding the Memphis and Nashville areas and 2020 rate increases averaging 1.4%.

» Bright Health. Continuing coverage in Knoxville, Memphis and Nashville areas with 2020 rate hikes averaging 2.93%.

» Celtic/Ambetter Insurance. Coverage expansion into Nashville and Knoxville areas with continuing coverage in Chattanooga and Memphis areas. The 2020 rates will decline by an average of 1.6%.

» Cigna. Coverage expansion into Chattanooga and Jackson with continuing coverage in Knoxville, Nashville, Memphis, and Tri-Cities. Cigna's 2020 rates will be cut by an average of 5.7%.

» Oscar Health. Coverage continues in Nashville and Memphis with a 2020 rate cut averaging 8.3%.

Lawrence said an individual's out-of-pocket premium costs depend on several factors, including the amount of federal funding for premium assistance available in the state.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services must now review Tennessee's approvals. Companies have until Sept. 24 to sign final agreements with CMS to participate in the 2020 marketplace.

Open Enrollment for 2020 begins Nov. 1, 2019, and lasts through Dec. 15, 2019.

Contact Dave Flessner at or at 757-6340.