California individual health insurance rates to increase slightly – Daily News

on Jul10
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People who buy their own health insurance in California next year will see their rates increase by less than 1%, the lowest jump in five years that state officials attribute to a new law that taxes most people who refuse to buy coverage.

Rates will increase an average of 0.8% percent next year, according to Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, the state-run health insurance marketplace. Specific rates charged by companies still must be approved by state regulators.

Most people in California buy their health insurance through their employer. But about 2.2 million people purchase insurance on the individual market. Rates for those people have increased an average of nearly 8% every year since 2014, the first year former President Barack Obama’s health care law went into effect.

Two things are happening in 2020 that state officials say will keep the rates in check: California will tax people who refuse to purchase insurance, and they will use the money they get from that tax to help middle-income people pay their monthly insurance premiums.

State officials believe the changes mean an additional 229,000 people will get health insurance coverage next year. More people having insurance lowers the risk for insurers, who can then lower rates, Lee said.

“It really is a win-win,” Lee said.

The federal Affordable Care Act required everyone, with some exceptions, to purchase insurance or pay a penalty. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld that law, ruling the penalty was a tax. In 2017, Republicans in Congress eliminated the tax beginning this year.

Last month, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law to reinstate the tax in California, joining Massachusetts, New Jersey, Vermont and Washington, D.C., next year as the only governments in the U.S. to penalize people who don’t buy health insurance.

S&P 500 snaps 2-day losing streak

Wall Street capped a day of listless trading Tuesday with modest gains, narrowly avoiding a three-day losing streak for the S&P 500 index. Investors have been mostly pausing ahead of two days of congressional testimony by Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell.

The S&P 500 rose 3.68 points, or 0.1%, to 2,979.63. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 22.65 points, or 0.1%, to 26,783.49.

The Nasdaq composite, which is heavily weighted with technology companies, gained 43.35 points, or 0.5%, to 8,141.73. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks added 1.20 points, or 0.1%, to 1,562.59.

Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.07% from 2.03% late Monday.

Benchmark crude oil gained 17 cents to settle at $57.83 a barrel. Brent crude oil, the international standard, rose 5 cents to close at $64.16 a barrel.

Uber offers more legroom, less chatting

Uber passengers can now get a more spacious ride and a less talkative driver — if they’re willing to shell out a few extra dollars.

The ride-hailing giant launched “comfort” rides in dozens of cities Tuesday. Riders are guaranteed 36 inches of legroom in “newer” cars — meaning those that are under five years old — and they can request a preferred air temperature. Riders can also use the app to tell drivers they don’t want to chat, avoiding what some consider an awkward exchange.

Uber is responding to requests from business travelers and others who say they just want to work or rest quietly when they’re on their way to the airport.

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