Thousands of Montana Blue Cross and Blue Shield customers were notified last week that their premium rates would be rising by 3.5 percent in anticipation of fee increases through the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

John Doran is Director of Strategic Marketing for Montana Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

"Beginning on January 1, 2014, the ACA includes new federal fees," Doran said. "Some of these fees are designed to support programs that will eventually stabilize premiums and also help to pay for subsidies for qualified individuals to help them purchase coverage."

Doran said Blue Cross and Blue Shield chose to implement the fees on January 1 when they take effect, rather than build the fees into 2013 or use money from the insurance company's reserve to absorb the cost.

Doran emphasized the importance of young people signing up for the Affordable Care Act, despite policies that are required to offer benefits many individuals don't need and will never use, such as a 30 year-old, single man paying for maternity and child healthcare.

"30 year-old men feel bulletproof, but not having health insurance is like playing Russian roulette, because you never know when you'll need insurance, until something happens," Doran said. "Besides, 30 year-olds and other young people have even more options, because they can buy catastrophic coverage, a high-deductible plan that meets all the ACA requirements. The more people we have in the risk pool, the better off we're going to be when it comes to the cost of healthcare. That's what the Affordable Care Act eventually tries to address, that's the stabilization of premiums to provide better care at a lower price."

Blue Cross and Blue Shield is one of only three healthcare providers available to Montanans through the Affordable Care Act and the Montana Health Insurance Exchange Marketplace.