Health care exchange premiums dip, finally

Health insurance premiums in 39 states- including Connecticut- will drop in 2019 some by double digits according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

Health insurance premiums in 39 states- including Connecticut- will drop in 2019 some by double digits according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

State CMS data show, for instance, Alabama's rates increased by 58% in 2017 and almost 20% for 2018, but are now expected to drop by 2.2%.

The fall in price is not much, just 1.5 percent to $406 a month for the second-lowest-cost plans offering.

The figures also show that, after several years of defections, some insurers are returning to sell ACA health plans, and fewer consumers around the country will have only one insurance company in their marketplace.

Still, the moderating prices for the most popular coverage will be helpful, in particular, to middle-class Americans - about 1 in 5 ACA customers - whose incomes place them above the threshold for the law's insurance subsidies.

"What we're seeing now is that these companies overshot the mark a little bit with their pricing, and so they're kind of recalibrating now", she said.

Another reason rates are dipping is that some states set up programs to subsidize high-cost enrollees. "So I think collectively, all the moves that we've made, our new regulations, the reinsurance waivers, have all come together to lower premiums".

In issuing this new portrait of the marketplaces on the cusp of the November 1 yearly sign-up period, administration officials did an about-face from President Trump's declarations since his campaign that the ACA was "dead" and its insurance exchanges were collapsing - a refrain popular among Republicans.

Verma said Thursday that average premiums would have increased for 2019, not decreased, if insurers expected that to happen.

Seema Verma is the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. "While we are encouraged by this progress, we aren't satisfied".

The average decrease comes despite accusations from critics that the Trump administration has sabotaged the exchanges by repealing the individual mandate, cutting of cost-sharing reduction payments and slashing funding the Affordable Care Act's Navigator program.

Cynthia Cox, the Kaiser Family Foundation's director of health reform and private insurance, said that reinsurance helped stabilize some markets and said that federal action last year to shorten the open enrollment period one year ahead of schedule also gave insurers more certainty, she said on Twitter.

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Yet "things are always complicated", she added.

CMS said the average individual market premiums in states in the federal exchange more than doubled between 2014, when the exchanges began, and 2017. Because the subsidies are tied to premium costs, people who do get subsidies may get less financial help and may want to look for cheaper plans to make the most of their subsidy.

From 2017 to 2018, the bench mark rose 37 percent, officials said, and in the prior year it rose 25 percent.

Other states with large percentage reductions in benchmark premiums, as reported by the Trump administration Thursday, were New Hampshire, down 15.2 percent, to $330 a month for a 27-year-old; New Jersey, down 14.7 percent, to $289; New Mexico, down 14.3 percent, to $299; and Pennsylvania, down 15.9 percent, to $397. North Dakota had the greatest increase, with average premiums rising more than 20% from $312 per month to $375.

Insurer participation is also improving next year. There will be 23 more carriers for 2019 than there were during the open enrollment period in 2018.

"This was an opportunity for Democrats and Republicans to protect people's access to quality, affordable health care when they need it most, ' said Sen".

Congressional Republicans and opponents of the law say a correction this year is not enough to erase the pain that's compounded over time, so the law still needs to be repealed and replaced.

Congress effectively ended the requirement that most Americans have health insurance or pay a penalty as part of a tax overhaul. That takes effect in January.

Some experts fear that other actions the Trump administration took will hurt the market in the long run.

The health law's marketplace was created to allow shoppers to easily compare rates for policies that had to meet federal benefit requirements, such as covering mental health and pregnancy care.

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