Plan choices and premiums rise on federal exchange


Shoppers on will have more product choices in 2015, but premiums may rise for many customers unless they switch health plans, according to a New York Times analysis of data released Friday by the Obama Administration. These data do not include information on coverage offered through 16 states and the District of Columbia that run their own health insurance marketplaces, The Washington Post reported.

Premiums for a typical, existing platinum plan rose 15 percent, according to The Post's analysis, and premiums for silver and bronze offerings grew by 7 percent.

But price increases will be more modest for people willing to comparison shop and change plans, The Times noted. In a typical county, the cost of the cheapest and second cheapest silver plans will rise by 5 percent and 4 percent, respectively.  

Changing plans may inconvenience enrollees nestling into a honeymoon period of new coverage. Results of a new Gallup poll suggested that 70 percent of surveyed Americans who bought exchange plans rated the coverage and healthcare as excellent or good, and most people intended to keep these products. Another concern for customers is this: If the price of a low-cost benchmark plan in their area fell, then the amount of federal subsidies could also decrease, meaning customers may have to change plans or pay more, The Times noted. 

Premium calculations based on review of the federal data "represent rough brushstrokes," The Post cautioned. "Premiums can vary widely by state and county, reflecting the varying competitive situations facing insurers in different markets. Prices also differ based on the level of coverage purchased, family size, a customer's age and tobacco use."

Further, premiums listed in the federal data don't reflect subsidies. Last year, for example, these cut the average cost of a monthly premium to $82 for 87 percent of federal exchange shoppers who received financial aid, The Post reported. However, the permanence of subsidies is in dispute: The U.S. Supreme Court recently agreed to hear a case challenging the legality of federal subsidies, which could dramatically impact the future of healthcare reform.

For more:
- see the federal exchange plan premium data
- here's The New York Times article
- read The Washington Post article

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