Obamacare Premiums Rising Sharply for 2018

The federal HealthCare.gov exchange has opened its window for customers to begin previewing Obamacare plans in advance of the Nov. 1 beginning of open enrollment, and health policy shops are beginning to release their analyses of the 2018 plans.

First out of the gate was health policy consulting firm Avalere Health, which analyzed the 39 states using the Obamacare exchange and found that premiums for the most-popular silver tier plans will rise 34 percent on average.

That would leave the average unsubsidized cost of silver tier plans, on which Affordable Care Act subsidies are based, at $743 per month for a 50-year-old, Avalere said. Iowa will see the highest jump in average silver tier premiums, 69 percent over 2017, while Alaska will see a decrease in premiums of 22 percent for 2018.

In a separate analysis, Avalere said Obamacare enrollment may shrink in 2018 and many consumers will have fewer plan options.

President Donald Trump’s Oct. 12 decision to end payments health insurers are required to make under the ACA to cover cost-sharing reductions (CSRs) for low-income people is contributing to the higher premiums. Many insurers are loading the cost of providing the subsidies onto silver-tier plans.

But while the cost of silver tier plans is rising sharply, people who receive premium tax credit subsidies may well benefit from the higher subsidies they will receive, which they can use to buy plans on other tiers, such as the higher-value gold tier.

An analysis of 32 states by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that health insurers that were making up for the loss of federal funding for the CSRs by loading the cost onto silver plans were raising premiums anywhere from 7 percent to 38 percent.

The 2018 premium increases come on top of premium increases averaging about 25 percent in 2017, so it will be especially important for consumers to shop carefully for plans that provide the best value.

The Department of Health and Human Services has released its own fact sheet with consumer information about the 2018 open enrollment, which is scheduled for Nov. 1-Dec. 15.

About 12.2 million selected plans during the open enrollment for 2017, down from 12.7 million in 2016, Avalere said. Nearly half of all counties may have only one participating insurer in their exchange markets, down from a third of counties having only one plan option in 2017, but insurers will largely remain in the market, it said.

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