Covered CA rates for 2016

Covered California, the state’s health insurance exchange, on Monday boasted a second straight year of modest rate hikes next year for the majority of its customers, but one region of the state won’t have it so easy: the Bay Area

While average premiums will rise only 4 percent statewide, rates will climb as high as 12.8 percent in Santa Cruz County, 7 percent in Santa Clara County and more than 6 percent in Alameda and San Mateo counties, exchange officials revealed.

Meanwhile, premiums will move more modestly in some parts of the state, such as Southern California, where rates will dip 0.2 percent in northeast Los Angeles County and inch up in southwest L.A. by only 2.5 percent. The reason, many say, is simple: There is more competition among hospitals and doctors’ groups in Southern California than in Northern California.

“Health care is local,” Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, said during a news conference to announce the rates, “and provider competition based on where you live is the key driver of underlying costs.”

┬áIn the Bay Area, only hospital-rich San Francisco will see an average rate of increase — 3.4 percent — lower than the state average. But even for the rest of the region, the news could be worse: Some states are seeing double-digit increases in their rates under the health insurance plans also known as Obamacare. And the average California rate hike for the plans created by the Affordable Care Act is slightly lower for 2016 than this year’s average increase of 4.2 percent.

What’s more, Lee said consumers can reduce their premiums by an average of 4.5 percent — and more than 10 percent in some regions — if they shop around and change to a comparable, lower-cost plan.

Lee said the modest statewide rate increase is “further evidence that the Affordable Care Act is working” and that Monday’s announcement should convince critics that Covered California was able to “turn the tide on Chicken Littles who said the sky would fall once again.”

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