Premium Increases

As more people are able to explore the healthcare.gov website – and as cancellation letters force people who currently have insurance to look for another health plan – the issue of premium increases is making news. So far, much of the reporting is in the form of anecdotes – stories of families whose premiums have doubled pitted against stories of people who shopped on the exchange and got a better deal than they had had before. As a group, healthy young people, especially, have seen their premiums increase. Older people with chronic health problems, on the other hand, are seeing their premiums go down.

But a project management memo from the Oct. 28 meeting of health reform officials expressed concern about the issue: “A general concern: getting to the point where the website is functioning properly and individuals begin to select plans… in some cases there will be fewer options than desired… Additionally, in some cases, there will be relatively high-cost plans.”

Robert Laszewski, a health insurance industry consultant, said a rise in rates is inevitable. He estimates that the new law has resulted in an estimated 30 to 50 percent increase in baseline costs for insurers. “We’ve got increased access for sick people and an increase in the span of benefits, so something’s got to give,” he says.

Van Jones, a former White House adviser, pointed out, “Here’s what’s really going on. There were winners and losers under the last system, and there are winners and losers under this system.”

Meanwhile, the Department of Health and Human Services reported that nearly half (1.3 million) of all single, uninsured Americans ages 18 to 34 who qualify for health insurance coverage through the exchanges could find bronze-level plans for $50 or less per month after receiving a federal subsidy. 1.9 million could get bronze-level plans for $100 or less.

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