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2017 Health Insurance Renewals – Inside the Numbers

A sneak peek

Curious about your upcoming health insurance renewal? Wonder no more because the numbers are in! Get a jump start and find the right plan for your company in 2017.

Our Crystal Ball

You may be asking, how do you know what my renewal will be before I do? There are a few factors:

  • Thanks to new transparency laws, rate and plan data is now publicly available,
  • The Affordable Care Act Standardized health insurance rates.
    • Your age and geographical location determine the rate, not your health.
  • Insurers must file annual rates with the PA insurance department for review and approval.

The numbers have been crunched

We’ve just completed an exhaustive review of the 2017 Central PA renewal increases. So let’s pull back the curtain and review the results for our local health insurance carriers one by one.


Aetna had one of the higher average increases at about 20%. While this is obviously bad news you shouldn’t jump ship just yet. Aetna’s new Funding Advantage plans may be a game changer. The innovative new policy has some great features including; tiered rating as opposed to age-banded and even the potential for a refund! This is an option you may want to check out. We plan on dedicating an entire blog post to it later this month.

Capital BlueCross/Keystone Central

Capital BlueCross comes in on the low end of renewal increases for 2017. The average price hike on their most popular products is a modest 8%. They also fared well in head to head pricing against other local insurance companies. It appears destined that Capital BlueCross will continue their recent dominance of the central PA small group health insurance market in 2017. To get even more bang for your buck, check out their money-saving Rx 250 option.

Geisinger Health Plan

Geisinger made a major shift in their plan portfolio for this year. They’re now offering more open-access PPO products and less of their restrictive HMOs. As a result they will map many policyholders to a new plan in 2017. This made it difficult to determine an accurate/fair renewal increase average. Consequently we can only say that Geisinger’s rates and plans are extremely competitive. Their new PPO Extra 20/60/3500 is one of the most cost effective plans for 2017. It’s already a popular option for many central Pennsylvania small businesses.

Highmark (Central Pa)

Highmark offers a conservative 5% average increase. However, in most cases, that increase is on top of already exorbitantly high rates. Therefore they still do poorly in head to head rate comparisons with other local insurers. Highmark once had a strong presence in the Central PA health insurance market. Due to uncompetitive rates, that presence has faded in recent years. Yet there is good news for select policyholders. Highmark offers their aggressively priced Lehigh Valley, Flex and Alliance plans in select regions of Pennsylvania.

Highmark (Northeastern PA)

At approximately 4%, Highmark of Northeastern PA boasts the lowest average increase. Better yet, rates actually decreased for some popular plans. These competitive prices may be due to increased competition from Geisinger. While the rates are good news, Highmark’s product portfolio can be tricky to navigate. This is due to confusion surrounding their Custom PPO versus Standard PPO networks and seemingly mispriced plans. We’ll stick to the positive though and mention their new Custom PPO Silver 10 plan. It has 100% coinsurance, a strong Rx card and is super price competitive, check it out!

United Healthcare

United Healthcare (UHC) continues its push into the central Pennsylvania health insurance market. Their average increase is around 6%, which is great. Yet their network and plans are holding them back. Many of UHC’s policies have less than 100% coinsurance. Therefore policyholders face potentially huge out of pocket expenses. Their network is growing in our area yet it hasn’t reached a satisfactory level in the eyes of many employers. UHC will inevitably become a bigger player in the future but we don’t think it will happen in 2017.



In your neck of the woods

While the overall picture is important, small business owners want to know how the changes will affect them. The Affordable Care Act split Pennsylvania into 9 health insurance rating areas. Insurers offer different rates, and sometimes plans, in each area. So we created quote comparison reports for each local region. They are categorized as; low-deductible, popular, HSA and cheapest. Each one shows an apples-to-apples comparison of popular plans in its category. All quote reports are based on the XYZ company’s fictitious census data, in case you’re curious.

Region 3: LackawannaCarbon and Luzerne 

Highmark leads the way in nearly all categories. While Geisinger wins the HSA comparison and is a close second is several others. Finally Aetna and United Healthcare consistently bring up the rear.


Region 6: Montour, Northumberland, Columbia, Schuylkill and Lehigh

Geisinger and Capital BlueCross battle for first place in several categories. However United Healthcare and Keystone Health Plan are viable choices in the Popular and Cheapest categories.


Region 7:  Berks and Lancaster

It’s the battle of the Blues in Region 7 since Highmark Blue Shield and Capital BlueCross are the frontrunners in nearly every category.


Region 9:  Dauphin and Lebanon

United Healthcare makes their presence known in the mid-state. Capital Blue cross also has a strong showing, coming up first in a few categories. Geisinger looks good in the HSA category but beware as their network may come up short in this area.



In conclusion…

As our friend G.I. Joe says, now you know and knowing is half the battle. So go forth and make a more informed decision at renewal time. Finally, if you need advice or want to see custom quotes for your company, we can help

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