Hit by high health care premiums, locals fight back

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Since Sara Stovall and Ian Dixon learned a family of four would have to pay $3,000 a month for health insurance, they've been trying to find a solution.

They met with elected officials in Washington, D.C., and also with the CEO of Optima Health, the only health insurance company offering Affordable Care Act plans in Charlottesville and Albemarle.

That meeting prompted new questions.

"We have some very specific concerns about how they've determined the rates for this area," said Stovall.

She says the Optima CEO told them the company used morbidity, the rate of disease in a population, when setting the Charlottesville rates.

That's against ACA rules, said Stovall.

She and Dixon sent an email to Optima, pointing out that other insurance companies rate Charlottesville as lower risk than other Virginia cities, and asking why Charlottesville Optima customers are being charged almost 70 percent more than Optima customers in Hampton Roads.

They ended the letter with a request.

"We are asking them to correct their filings with the state and bring more affordable health care to the people of Charlottesville," Stovall said.

An Optima spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment, but the CEO, Michael Dudley, responded to Stovall and Dixon's letter and defended the rates.

"We determined that the premium rates offered in Charlottesville were accurately calculated and reviewed by third-party actuarial experts, correctly addressing all appropriate adjustments and in accordance with state and federal laws," Dudley wrote.

He said Optima has lost more than $30 million in Virginia in the last three years and said the insurance rates are locked in for 2018.

That answer doesn't satisfy Stovall. She says she has reached out to the Virginia Bureau of Insurance, which approves rates in the state, and asked for an investigation.

Bureau spokesperson Ken Schrad confirmed that an investigation is underway.

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