Premiums for Most Popular Type of Obamacare Plan Will Drop Next Year

Average Premiums for Benchmark Obamacare Plans Will Drop in 2019                 

     

     Jonathan Bachman

Average Premiums for Benchmark Obamacare Plans Will Drop in 2019 Jonathan Bachman

The agency stated that it is the first time since 2014 that premiums in any part of the ACA health plan market are projected to decline for consumers. Twenty-nine insurers have expanded their reach, bringing the percentage of counties with just one insurer down from 56% a year ago to 39% in 2019. The drop-which is in double digits in some states-is the first of its kind since the health care law was implemented in 2010, reports Governing.

From 2017 to 2018, the bench mark rose 37 percent, officials said, and in the prior year it rose 25 percent.

CMS Administrator Seema Verma says the reductions along with increased issuer participation suggests the Trump administration was working to stabilize the market, not sabotage it.

"The rhetoric on the exchanges has not matched the facts", Verma said, and despite predictions that the insurance market would destabilize, the opposite has happened.

With a 26.2% decrease, Tennessee will see the largest drop in insurance premiums.

State CMS data show, for instance, Alabama's rates increased by 58% in 2017 and almost 20% for 2018, but are now expected to drop by 2.2%. North Dakota and DE are expected to see 20.2 percent and 16.1 percent increases respectively on the second-lowest silver plan, the highest of all the states, according to CMS data.

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The enrollment will take place from November 1 to December 15 and those who want to save money in premiums need to switch to a different plan along with different network of doctors.

A handful of other states, such as New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, will also see double-digit drops. There will be 23 more carriers for 2019 than there were during the open enrollment period in 2018.

"Our worry is that the Affordable Care Act continues to be unsustainable over time because it was created to be unsustainable over time, from the very beginning", the Texas Republican said recently. Outside health policy analysts, however, challenged the administration's reasoning, saying that the rates for ACA health plans were driven up past year in an overreaction to the administration's maneuvers and that prices would have been even lower for 2019 if Trump and his health-care aides had not been altering the law. But, just as Obama was leaving office, rates rose 20 percent for 2017 plans.

Charles Gaba, a Michigan-based blogger who tracks ACA sign-ups, noted that the numbers released by the administration were just one snapshot of the marketplace.

"While we are encouraged by this progress, we aren't satisfied", she added.

The vast majority of consumers buying on the exchange have been shielded from rate hikes because their incomes are low enough to qualify for federal subsidies.

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"Last year, every county in Arizona only had one insurance company that was selling ACA plans on HealthCare.gov, " Gjersvig said. In the coming days, CMS will be announcing more initiatives to help states, including more options for states to use 1332 waivers to improve their health insurance markets, Verma said.

"However, this is by no means a celebration", she added.

"Premiums would have dropped more on average if not for harmful Trump administration actions", said Sarah Lueck, senior policy analyst for the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The administration is expanding access to alternative plans that don't have to meet consumer protections of the health care law, for example. Critics have called the insurance "junk plans", and Democrats tried and failed to repeal the rule on Wednesday.

CMS predicts that "silver plan" rates in Arizona will drop 9.6 percent next year and the lowest-cost plans will fall 10.1 percent in the state. The highest cost is $709 in Wyoming. In Tuesday's briefing, Verma said the pattern has turned around. The Trump administration cut millions of dollars in funding to the program that pays groups to work with people needing help selecting coverage.

Even as she touted the lower premiums Thursday, Verma said "the law needs to change to mitigate the damage done by Obamacare".

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