Feature

Government uncertainty drives jump in ACA silver plan insurance premiums


 

 

Silver plans on the Affordable Care Act insurance exchanges in 2018 will see an average premium increase of 34% nationwide, according to new research from Avalere Health.

“Plans are raising premiums in 2018 to account for market uncertainty and the federal government’s failure to pay for cost-sharing reductions,” Caroline Pearson, senior vice president at Avalere, said in a statement. “These premium increases may allow insurers to remain in the market and enrollees in all regions to have access to coverage.”

A conputer shows the healthcare.gov website on its screen Mary Ellen Schneider/Frontline Medical News
Other drivers of this increase include lower than anticipated enrollment in the marketplace, limited insurer participation, insufficient action by the government to reimburse plans that cover higher-cost enrollees, and general volatility around the policies governing exchanges, according to the Avalere research.

The expected premium changes are highly variable by state. Iowa has the highest change in its silver plans, with an average premium increase of 69% for its silver plans, while at the other end of the spectrum, Alaska is actually seeing a 22% decrease.

“These rates may change prior to open enrollment depending on how states respond to the elimination of CSR [cost-sharing reduction] funding for the 2018 plan year,” Avalere notes in its new analysis, adding that states may allow plans to refile for rate hikes now that CSR funding is likely dead. “In states where this occurs, it is expected that the newly updated rates will be substantially higher for the 2018 plan year.”

There was a glimmer of hope that the CSR payments would resume after a compromise was reached in the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee by Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) that would offer 2 years of funding along with flexibility in the waiver program to allow states to tweak Affordable Care Act requirements, which is supported by AGA (http://www.gastro.org/news_items/aga-supports-alexander-murray-agreement...). However, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) said the House would not be taking on any more health care action for the remainder of the year.

A spokeswoman from America’s Health Insurance Plans said in an interview that, although the CSR payments are no more, premium tax credits still exist to help lower-income individuals obtain insurance coverage.

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