If you have an individual health insurance policy, you may be soon seeing yet higher rates -- and if you believe the insurance companies, it's in part because healthcare reform requires additional benefits.


"Aetna Inc., some BlueCross BlueShield plans and other smaller carriers have asked for premium increases of between 1% and 9% to pay for extra benefits required under the law, according to filings with state regulators," Janet Adamy writes in the Wall Street Journal Wednesday.

The proposed rate hikes, according to filings, fall mostly on small business and individual insurance policies. About nine percent of Americans have individual policies.

The bad news is that the one to nine percent is only part of the price hikes insurers are seeking.

"Many carriers also are seeking additional rate increases that they say they need to cover rising medical costs," Adamy pens. "As a result, some consumers could face total premium increases of more than 20%.

The good news is that many of the hikes only apply to policies written after Oct. 1 -- those who have existing policies could be grandfathered in. But if you seek to alter your existing plan, you could lose your price-restrained status.

How much will the hikes be?

Aetna, one of the nation's largest health insurers, said the extra benefits forced it to seek rate increases for new individual plans of 5.4% to 7.4% in California and 5.5% to 6.8% in Nevada after Sept. 23. Similar steps are planned across the country, according to Aetna.

Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon said the cost of providing additional benefits under the health law will account on average for 3.4 percentage points of a 17.1% premium rise for a small-employer health plan. It asked regulators last month to approve the increase.

In Wisconsin and North Carolina, Celtic Insurance Co. says half of the 18% increase it is seeking comes from complying with health-law mandates.

The White House blasted the insurance companies' logic.

"I would have real deep concerns that the kinds of rate increases that you're quoting... are justified," Nancy-Ann DeParle, the White House's top health official, told Adamy. "We believe consumers will see through this."

More news on the proposed rate hikes is available here