As open enrollment begins in 2015, the second year of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchanges, health insurance coverage is expected to see prices go up and down across the nation. A study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation looked at 49 cities and found that overall, the most popular plans showed rate decreases. Health insurance coverage, prior to the passage of the ACA, saw annual increases of up to 10 percent. The Kaiser study shows that these insurance rate decreases can be directly attributed to the law as prices have almost never gone down.
A senior analyst at Kaiser, Cynthia Cox confirmed that premiums “have gone in one direction–up.” The new numbers shows that at least in the cities they analyzed, the health insurance marketplaces are performing as the law intended. With increased competition among health insurers, prices are not increasing exponentially each year.
Another study conducted by the Wakely Consulting Group, a private actuarial firm, found similar decreases, but also showed that the most popular plans from 2014 will see rate increases. This means that consumers who fail to shop for cheaper plans may see a substantial increase in their premiums. For example, in Alaska, premiums are expected to rise by 13 percent. However, in Jackson, MS, similar premiums will see a 25 percent decrease. Americans across the board are seeing the ups and downs of their health insurance coverage for 2015.
Of those who purchased insurance coverage earlier this year, a Gallup poll shows that 7 out of 10 rate the quality of their plans as “excellent” or “good.” Conducting interviews between October 22 and November 12, the poll found that perceptions of the new health insurance coverage was generally positive. Four percent of those surveyed were purchasing coverage through the ACA exchanges for the first time. Seventy-five percent of these newly insured Americans reported being more satisfied with their coverage costs compared to 61 percent of the general population.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released data on Friday revealing prices for different states. While data oscillated greatly in terms of premium increases and decreases, most people who purchased plans last year can find at least one plan that is less expensive, yet still offered the same level of coverage. There are 77 new health insurance providers offering plans in the marketplace for 2015. This is up by 25 percent from last year, giving those searching for insurance a greater ability to shop around for their coverage. A Charlotte resident, Margaret Brawner, said that only two insurance companies are offering coverage where she lives. Her coverage has seen an increase for the new year, due to this lack of competition. She understands that the major reason plans under the ACA are less expensive is “because there are more companies competing for your business.” She plans to wait until she relocates to purchase coverage.
During his weekly address, President Obama continued his commitment to the healthcare.gov website and the marketplace exchanges. He cited the subsidized premiums based on income, the guarantee of cover despite previous illness, and the no-cost preventative services included with every plan as the major benefits to Americans. Additionally, over 200 enrollment events kicked off this weekend. Reaching low-income Black and Hispanic young adults is one of the goals of this year’s enrollment, as these segments of the U.S. population are very likely not to have health insurance.
Despite these early reports showing positive gains in the ACA for consumers, the Republican control of Congress has brought repealing the law back to the forefront. Cases headed to the Supreme Court could also pose a challenge to the low-income subsidy that makes health insurance affordable for many Americans. Putting aside the ups and downs of securing affordable coverage in America, open enrollment season this year runs from November 15 to Feb. 15, 2005, and 2015 could see 9.1 million enrollments.
By Didi Anofienem