Californians who buy individual health plans will see their premiums rise an average of 14 percent next year under the Affordable Care Act, according to a new report released Thursday by California's health care exchange.
The report commissioned by Covered California found the increase is largely due to an influx of people who previously could not afford health insurance or were denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions.
While premiums will go up, exchange director Peter Lee said the small group of people who tend to be independent contractors and self-employed will get better health plans that won't bankrupt them if they become ill.
"What we have as of Jan. 1, 2014, is real insurance that can provide the protection for the first time that all Californians that buy coverage through the individual market will know they will never go bankrupt," he said in a conference call with reporters. "That's a game changer."
Lee said one of the exchange's challenges will be to communicate changes coming under the federal health care overhaul. Even though premiums may go up, Californians will receive more benefits to offset the costs, such as guaranteed coverage, limits on out-of-pocket expenses, and comprehensive medical coverage to protect them when they need it.
The report estimates that rates in California would rise 9 percent in 2014 without federal changes. It did not look at the impact of federal health care overhaul on costs for most adults who receive coverage through their employer.
California, which is ahead of most states in planning an insurance exchange, is expected to be a trendsetter on rates.