Big announcement from Washington this week: Individual premiums on the health insurance marketplaces are going up – way up – and the number of carriers offering these plans is going down – way down.
That was the word from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Monday. Premiums for a midlevel benchmark plan will go up an average of 25 percent for 2017 across the 39 states served by the federally run online market. In addition, consumers will have fewer options from which to choose in the marketplace. About one in five consumers will have only one carrier offering coverage on the exchange, according to the HHS.
But we didn’t need Washington to tell us this! As the different states have announced their health insurance rate filings for the upcoming open enrollment, we’ve seen nothing but rate hikes. Here’s a sampling of what we’ve reported on our website over the past several days:
- Illinois: Rates will increase by an average of 44 percent for the lowest-priced individual bronze plans, 45 percent for the lowest-priced silver plans and 55 percent for the lowest-priced gold plans.
- Michigan: The sticker price for individual health plans sold on the exchange will jump 16.7 percent next year.
- Utah: Rates for health insurance plans on the individual marketplace are likely to rise by an average of 30 percent next year.
And I could go on and on.
To be sure, many consumers who purchase their health insurance through the exchange don’t pay the full price for it. They qualify for subsidies to cover part of those costs. But for those who don’t qualify for a subsidy, rate hikes are taking the “affordable” out of the Affordable Care Act. Take Joe Thissen of Eden Prairie, Minn., who pays $15,800 in annual premiums to cover his family of seven. Now, he faces the prospect of about $25,000 in premium costs for coverage that would require another $5,000 in deductible spending when the family needs care. "It's just so expensive, it's insane,” he said.
Now let’s look at choice – or the lack of it. At least 1.4 million people in 32 states will lose the plans they have now because their carrier exited the marketplace. Charles Gaba, who tracks the law at ACASignups.net, estimates that 2 million to 2.5 million people in the U.S. will lose their current plans.
Larry Levitt, who studies the ACA for the Kaiser Family Foundation, summed it all up when he described the next sign-up season as “a tumultuous open enrollment period.”
"Consumers will be faced this year with not only big premium increases but also with a declining number of insurers participating,” he said.
An Associated Press article we posted on Tuesday said, “Overall, it's shaping up to be the most difficult sign-up season since HealthCare.gov launched in 2013 and the computer system froze up.”
Open enrollment is less than a week away. We’ll soon find out whether predictions are true.
Susan Rupe is managing editor for InsuranceNewsNet. She formerly served as communications director for an insurance agents' association and was an award-winning newspaper reporter and editor. Contact her at [email protected].
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