By SARA ARTHURS
Ohioans, in general, will have more insurers offering plans under the Affordable Care Act in 2019 than they did this year.
But premiums continue to go up, and many doctors locally may not be in the network.
The Ohio Department of Insurance completed its review of insurance product filings last week.
The federal government runs Ohio’s health insurance exchange for Affordable Care Act (also known as “Obamacare”) plans. Ohioans who do not receive insurance through an employer, Medicare or Medicaid can purchase these plans.
Open enrollment for 2019 coverage runs Nov. 1 through Dec. 15.
This year, eight companies sold health insurance products on the exchange in Ohio. For 2019, that number will rise to 10 companies.
In 2018, 42 Ohio counties have just one insurer, with an additional 20 counties having two.
For 2019, 16 counties will have just one insurer and 33 counties will have two. All 88 Ohio counties will have at least one insurer.
Fourteen months ago, it looked like Hancock County would have no insurer on the marketplace this year. In June 2017, Anthem, which had been the only participating insurer in the county, announced it would not be selling insurance on the marketplace in Ohio.
Two months later, the Ohio Department of Insurance announced it had worked with five major Ohio insurers to offer insurance in counties that had no carrier.
Next year, Anthem is back in some Ohio counties, although not Hancock. Community Insurance Co., an Anthem product, is being offered in parts of Ohio in 2019, said Chris Brock, assistant director of public affairs for the Ohio Department of Insurance.
According to a map posted on the Ohio Department of Insurance website, Hancock, Putnam, Wyandot, Allen and Seneca counties all have two insurers offering plans for 2019. Hardin County has just one insurer, Henry County has three, and Wood County has four.
The two in Hancock County are Medical Health Insuring Corp. of Ohio (Medical Mutual) and Molina Healthcare of Ohio.
Insurers in surrounding counties include: Putnam County, Community Insurance Co. and Medical Health Insuring Corp. of Ohio; Wyandot County, Community Insurance Co. and Paramount Insurance Co.; Allen County, Buckeye Community Health Plan and Medical Health Insuring Corp. of Ohio; Seneca County, Medical Health Insuring Corp. of Ohio and Paramount Insurance Co.; Hardin County, Medical Health Insuring Corp. of Ohio; Henry County, CareSource, Medical Health Insuring Corp. of Ohio and Paramount Insurance Co.; and Wood County, CareSource, Medical Health Insuring Corp. of Ohio, Molina Healthcare of Ohio and Paramount Insurance Co.
Heidi Rupp, owner of HSR Insurance in Findlay, said the biggest changes this year in Hancock County were the loss of Anthem’s plan, and only health maintenance organization (HMO) insurance being available through Molina and Medical Mutual.
The biggest question is whether doctors will sign up for the HMO product, she said. This year, Blanchard Valley Health System did accept it, but most doctors not affiliated with the health system did not, she said.
Statewide, premiums are set to increase an average of 6.3 percent based on company projections. Brock said, however, that prices vary a great deal.
One consumer in Hancock County purchasing insurance might be paying significantly more than another.
Premiums have increased 132 percent in the years since the marketplace first opened in 2013, Brock said.
Next year’s single-digit increase in health premiums is actually better than many previous years, Rupp said. But people who get insurance through the exchange and do not receive a subsidy may already be paying so much that this increase could lead them to take their chances going uninsured.
Congress eliminated the penalty for not having health insurance as part of the tax package passed in December 2017.
Rupp said she has received a few phone calls from people asking if they can drop their coverage, as they have heard that the penalty has gone away. It actually disappears on Jan. 1, 2019, so people dropping coverage before then will still pay a penalty.
In February of this year 20 states, led by Texas, filed a lawsuit arguing that, as there is no longer a penalty related to the individual mandate, it is unconstitutional and so is the rest of the law.
The Trump administration announced in June it would not defend the Affordable Care Act and considers portions of it unconstitutional, including a portion prohibiting insurers from denying insurance or charging more to people with pre-existing conditions.
Oral arguments are set for Sept. 5 before federal Judge Reed O’Connor in Texas.