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Obamacare users in New York brace for double-digit 2017 premium hikes

Not easy for Obamacare insurers to make money

Come 2017, thousands of New York's Obamacare users will wake up to double-digit premium hikes, the latest group of consumers affected by Affordable Care Act cost increases as insurers hemorrhage money from healthcare exchanges.

In a statement on Friday announcing 2017 premiums, NY's Department of Financial Services (DFS) said after weighing insurer requests, the state settled on an average hike of 16.6 percent for individual exchange users in the state, while small group users will see a lower average increase of over 8 percent.

Overall, about 350,000 individual plan consumers will be affected by the price hike, while more than a million users will be hit by higher small group fees.

DFS officials said the premium hike was lower than the 28 percent average sought by health care providers, and added that the savings would spare policyholders more than $302 million overall.

Still, The New York price hike left little doubt that plans would cost New York's health care exchange users substantially more than they were paying in 2016. The Empire State's premium plans are a microcosm of the Obamacare effect taking place across the country, where increases vary widely but are undeniably headed higher.

The announcements come at a precarious time, with the 2016 general election underway and both major parties jockeying for advantage in politically important states, many of which have been hit by higher health care costs.

80 percent increase?

Insurers have lost money on the plans, and have been gradually preparing consumers for coming price hikes.

Earlier this year, Blue Cross Blue Shield released a study showing Obamacare user costs were 22 percent higher than people with employer-sponsored health plans, while UnitedHealth plans to exit most exchanges by next year.

The new premium hikes ranged from as little as 8 percent for Aetna Life individual users, to a whopping 80 percent increase for the unlucky policyholders of Crystal Run Health Insurance Company, an insurer that covers parts of the Hudson Valley and Catskills.

"While premiums are increasing nationally, New York's rates are comparable or lower than rates requested and approved in other states," DFS Superintendent Maria Vullo said in a statement.

"More than 50 percent of consumers buying plans through the NY State of Health will receive a tax credit offsetting the increases in premiums, and for some the credit will result in lower actual premiums," Vullo said.

"DFS will continue to protect consumers and ensure access to healthcare, while maintaining a vibrant and competitive New York insurance market," she added.