Insurance costs rise modestly, but increase tops previous quarter

Small businesses and individuals whose annual health insurance policies renew on Oct. 1 will see average premium base rate hikes of 2.1 percent in Massachusetts, increases that are more modest than the 5.5 percent average boost in base rates they absorbed a year ago.

But despite the trend of moderating increases in the past two years, the new rate hikes ticked up from the 0.7 percent average increases on policies that renewed July 1, according to data filed Friday by the state Division of Insurance. Regulators have the power to reject excessive increases for small employers and self-employed individuals, but in this case they let the requested price increases stand.

The base rates apply to thousands of customers in the so-called small group market. Many of those customers — who are mostly employers — will have to pay more than the average increase, however, because of additional factors such as their location, type of business, industry sector, and workforce age.

“This is a very slight increase,” said Barbara Anthony, the state undersecretary of consumer affairs and business regulation. “If you look at the data since 2010, there’s been a continued moderation in average rate increases. Compared to where we were two years ago when average base rate increases were in the teens, they’re now in the low single digits.”

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