By Cyril Tuohy
An analysis of federal health exchange data finds that the average premium for the lowest-cost bronze plan in 2015 is expected to rise 3 percent compared with 2014. The average price for the lowest-cost silver plan is expected to increase 4 percent compared with 2014.
Average monthly premium prices for a 50-year-old nonsmoker covered by the lowest-cost bronze plan are expected to come in at $307 next year, an increase of 3 percent from $298 in 2014.
Average monthly premiums for the lowest-cost silver plan are expected to reach $381, an increase of 4 percent from $365 in 2014, the analysis found.
The analysis, conducted by the health consultancy Avalere Health, also found average premium changes from 2014 to 2015 for bronze plans ranging from an increase of 28 percent in Alaska to a decrease of 19 percent in Mississippi.
Average premium changes for silver plans range from an increase in 28 percent in Alaska to a drop of 18 percent in New Hampshire.
Avalere’s cost estimates were determined before factoring in subsidies, which have come under legal challenge and are under review by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“The bottom line is that exchange enrollees’ 2015 premiums will vary widely based on geography,” Elizabeth Carpenter, director at Avalere Health, said in a news release. “Consumers should be wary of reports detailing national or statewide premiums changes and should instead focus on details of their particular plan.”
Caroline Pearson, vice president at Avalere Health, also said consumers should shop around as much as possible to compare plan features.
Open enrollment for 2015 Affordable Care Act plans on Healthcare.gov, which covers 34 states, began Saturday.
The latest estimates released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have predicted that 9 million people will sign up for health insurance on the federal exchange, down from estimates as high as 13 million earlier this year.
There are 77 new health insurance carriers selling plans in the marketplace in 2015, an increase of 25 percent over last year, according to the HHS.
A separate analysis of the federal health exchange data conducted by USA Today found a big jump in the number of health plans — bronze, silver, gold and platinum — being sold in the 34 states using the federal health exchange.
In Tioga County, Pa., only one plan was sold over the federal exchange last year. For 2015, there are 38 plans.
In Cook County, Ill., home of Chicago, there are 143 plans for sale for 2015, nearly double the 78 for sale for 2014.
The influx of plans means competition is increasing in many areas. The stiffer the competition, the lower the price increases from one year to the next as carriers fight over buyers.
Cyril Tuohy is a writer based in Pennsylvania. He has covered the financial services industry for more than 15 years. Cyril may be reached at [email protected].
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