Cost of ACA health premiums are climbing

By Zachary Tracer
October 27, 2015


(Bloomberg) — Mid-level Affordable Care Act health policies are going to be more expensive next year, a challenge for the administration as it seeks to boost enrollment.

Premiums for the second-lowest-cost silver plans are going up by an average of 7.5% next year in the 37 states that use a U.S.-run website, the Department of Health and Human Services said Monday. Last year, those plans got 2% more expensive on average in 35 states. Those plans are used to calculate the government subsidies that most people get to help them buy coverage on the website.

The health department didn’t say what the plans would cost in dollar terms. Almost 80% of individuals who have previously bought coverage on the ACA website will be able to find a plan for less than $100 a month after subsidies, it said.

The Obama administration has been seeking to make sure affordable options are available as part of its goal of getting more people signed up for insurance in the 2016 enrollment period, which starts Nov. 1. Those who remain uninsured tend to be younger and poorer than people who’ve already signed up, HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell has said. Some insurers had sought rate increases of 10% or more for 2016, raising concerns that cheap options would dwindle.

The premium data released Monday is just one portion of what individuals need to consider as they shop for coverage, according to Robert Laszewski, an insurance industry consultant. People need to be mindful of what doctors and hospitals are covered, and how much in out-of-pocket costs they may be on the hook for if they get sick, he said.

“The bottom line here is consumers have to shop carefully,” he said. “You can’t just buy price.”

Last week, government officials introduced new features for to help people compare the costs of plans.

The analysis released Monday includes states that are relying on the website for both 2015 and 2016. Hawaii, which switched to the federal site this year, isn’t included.

Changes in the second-lowest cost silver plans varied widely among states and cities. Premiums climbed 35.7% in Oklahoma, and declined 12.6% in Indiana, for instance. The silver plans typically cover about 70% of an individual’s health care costs, though more than half of people with ACA plans get additional help that makes their coverage more generous.

Another measure shows that premiums may rise more when measured by the plans people actually choose. Weighted by enrollment, rates will increase by about 12% to 13% nationally, on average, according to Charles Gaba, who tracks the health law on The figure assumes individuals sign up for the same plans that they currently have, and could be lower or higher if people switch plans.

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