November 27, 2014

Expert: Nebraskans’ premiums may bounce 30% under Obamacare

An official with the Nebraska Health Care Alliance estimates when the federal health care law goes into effect in several months requiring all policies to be compliant, the expense will be staggering.

Paul Utemark, CEO of the Fillmore County Hospital, says premiums in Nebraska could increase an average of about 30%.

“If you look at what the reaction was for the people who were shopping for insurance on their own, some people think it’ll be much greater than that just because of the sheer numbers of people who fall into those type of plans will be that much more,” Utemark says. “I’d like to hope that it would be a smooth transition but there’s definitely a possiblity people are going to be shocked.”

Utemark says some states may see even higher percentage increases in premiums.

The Nebraska Health Care Alliance initially formed to promote a state-based health insurance exchange, which failed to materialize. Now that the federal Affordable Care Act is law, Utemark expects we’ll see a lot of things businesses and individuals will try to make things work.

“Employers have been offering group health plans for a long time and they take a lot of pride in that and feel it’s part of their responsibility to repay their employees for work well done,” Utemark says. “I think there will have to be a lot of thinking and a lot of collaborating and a lot of talking to find out how many options there are and to make the best decision for each individually.”

Utemark says every family and individual experiences a different situation when it comes to health care, which makes it difficult to find a solution that’s acceptable to all. Opinions on the law differ among health care providers and over how they’ll practice health care in the future.

“The concern I see over time is for so much change in the way things have been done,” Utemark says. “The folks who are younger in their career are okay with it because they can adapt. The folks who are in the latter stages of their career are wondering how far they can go and if they can really make it work for them.”

Utemark says the Nebraska Health Care Alliance doesn’t pretend to know all the answers to what the long-term effect of the law will be. So far, about eight-million people have enrolled in health insurance since the ACA went into effect.

What’s not known is how many younger people, who tend to get sick less often, will enroll under the program. Other variables include how prescription drug spending and consolidation in the medical field will affect the future cost of health care.

By Doug Kennedy, KWBE, Beatrice