Despite concerns about double-digit rate increases and dwindling insurer participation, most HealthCare.gov consumers will still be able to buy coverage for less than $75 per month, just as in 2016, according to a new HHS issue brief.
The continued affordability will be a result of advance payments of the premium tax credits (APTC) and the opportunity for most consumers to be able to shop around for marketplace plans, the agency's Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE).
The finding is based a hypothetical scenario in which all marketplace plan premiums increase by 25% from 2016 to 2017 and concludes that 73% of consumers will be able to find coverage costing under $75, and 78% for under $100.
The argument hinges on the notion that most consumers will be able to shop around, with the brief highlighting how the ACA has made it possible for those with pre-existing conditions to move between plans without being charged more or denied coverage. It notes that last year, more than 40% of returning HealthCare.gov users changed plans, resulting in an average savings of $42 per month.
However, a rising number of consumers will not have that luxury, as a record number of counties -- primarily rural -- prepare to enter enrollment season with a single option, as Vox reported.
The brief also stresses tax credits will go up with premiums, shielding consumers from much of the impact. The credits increase by the same amount as the second-lowest-cost silver plan.
“Headline rate increases do not reflect what consumers actually pay,” HHS's Kathryn Martin, Acting Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, said in a prepared statement.
Further, HHS' message appears to be that while increases are indeed happening, they aren't as bad as they could have been, given that 2016 rates were already 12% to 20% lower than what the CBO had initially predicted.