The Health 202: Health insurance still costs too much. But Congress probably won’t fix it
For all the Obamacare political battles over the past decade, a harsh reality remains: Health insurance is still unaffordable for many Americans. And it’s unclear whether a soon-to-be-divided Congress will do much about it.
I wrote in Monday’s Health 202 that the Affordable Care Act’s marketplaces are looking more stable than ever before, given that average premiums dipped for the first time and plan offerings increased rather than diminished. That’s broadly true — but it’s also true that consumers in some U.S. counties are still seeing big price hikes. In fact, several of you wrote me to say your premiums are still rising by double digits.
— Fairfax, Va., resident Susan wrote that the monthly premium for a Kaiser plan for herself and her child is increasing 30 percent from last year and that she isn’t eligible for any subsidies to pad the extra expense.
“This is the second year in a row of 30 percent premium increases!” Susan wrote. “I currently have Kaiser’s cheapest silver plan, but their bronze offering isn’t going to be the ‘answer’ — it is only about $60 per month cheaper. And premiums aren’t much lower if I switched to Cigna (and started over with all new doctors).”
— Another reader, named Fern, said she enrolled in Oregon’s marketplace because she wants to support the ACA. But the premiums for her “Providence Bronze-level plan” went up 33 percent. “Not sure where premiums were lower, but I want to move there,” she wrote to me.
The big picture here is that despite the recent good news, premiums are still 75 percent higher on average than when the marketplaces opened in 2014. And that’s not the only way consumers are feeling pinched on health-care costs. Out-of-pocket spending — the extra costs associated with a plan such as deductibles and coinsurance — has accelerated for the past three years across all types of health insurance, including for employer-sponsored coverage.