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Some bracing themselves for health insurance hikes

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BATON ROUGE - Louisiana residents who buy insurance plans through the Affordable Care Act's marketplace may see those rates go up.

Eight insurance companies which serve the state's individuals and small groups filed proposals for rate increases. Of the 14 plans filed with the state, only one asks for a less-than 10 percent increase and the highest proposed increase is 24 percent.

More than 184,000 people in Louisiana purchased their own health insurance through the exchanges in 2015, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Baton Rouge restaurant owner Judy Williams said anything more than 20 percent looks like almost an extra $100 out of her pocket.

"(I'm paying) just under $300 (now) and so it would go to just under $400. You know if it goes up, which I'm sure it probably will...I think (it's) a bit much," said Williams.

A representative for Blue Cross / Blue Shield of Louisiana said the increases are needed to pay for changes in the average health of Louisiana's population, staying in compliance with federal "metal level" coverage requirements, and the cost of migrating people off of plans which won't be available in 2016. They said around 74,000 of Blue Cross and Blue Shield customers would see an increase in their premiums.

Louisiana's Department of Insurance said companies are required to file their rate increases with the state, and federal law requires any increases above 10 percent to be reviewed to see if they're reasonable. However, the state has no authority to say "no" to any proposed increases.

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