Next year’s Obamacare: More insurers but steeper prices
Health insurers are planning to expand in Obamacare amid rising profits, but the trend is coming at the expense of higher premiums for certain customers.
Premiums are expected to rise by an average of 15 percent for customers whose incomes aren’t low enough to qualify them for subsidies, according to early estimates from Avalere Health.
Still, the entrance by insurers into Obamacare is a reversal from years of exits. Health insurers were fleeing Obamacare in droves around this time last year, and it looked as though people in as many as 47 counties would have no options for coverage.
The Trump administration and Republicans have made several changes to Obamacare since then that Democrats call “sabotage.” President Trump ended payments to insurers, the GOP tax law will end the requirement in 2019 that people must buy health insurance or pay a fine, and people soon will be able to buy less-expensive coverage that doesn’t follow Obamacare’s rules.
Yet, the Obamacare exchanges are showing an unexpected trend: No empty counties have been reported. Not only are insurers not leaving, but they’re also expanding or returning.
“It’s almost a complete 180 of where we were last year,” said Cynthia Cox, director of the Study of Health Reform and Private Insurance program at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “We were counting how many counties would have no insurance companies and companies were exiting.”
It’s too early to determine how many insurers will sell Obamacare coverage, because contracts between states and health insurers won’t be finalized until the fall and not all applications have been submitted.
But having more insurers gives consumers more options, and may include coverage for doctors or hospitals they prefer. It also has the potential to offer more competition that could help keep prices down. For customers who like their coverage, a lack of insurer exits means they can keep their plan and won’t have to find new doctors.