- On average, premiums for the benchmark Affordable Care Act exchange plans are decreasing by 4% for 2020 coverage for a 27-year-old, administration health officials said Tuesday ahead of the upcoming open enrollment.
- More issuers are offering plans for next year. There will be 175 issuers selling plans during open enrollment, 20 more than last year, HHS Secretary Alex Azar said Monday on a call with reporters.
- Only two states will be left with one issuer, a decrease from last year.
Despite the average decline in premiums for a certain subset of plans, health officials said the prices were still out of reach for many.
To illustrate her point, CMS Administrator Seema Verma pointed to the decline in shoppers who are unsubsidized or do not qualify for financial assistance to purchase individual health insurance plans. From 2016 to 2018, about 2.5 million shoppers left the exchanges. Those covered by exchanges plans are mainly those who qualify for financial help.
Trump administration officials have long criticized the ACA and the individual market that was created from the law.
Monday's announcement was no different, as Azar claimed it was the Trump administration that was responsible for lowering premiums for the benchmark plans, or second-lowest cost silver plans in markets across the country. Officials have used these plans to effectively compare prices across the country.
But critics have been wary about awarding any victory to the Trump administration. In fact, some healthcare experts say insurance premiums on the exchanges soared in 2018 due to uncertainty from the administration's actions including attempted ACA repeal and the loss of cost-sharing subsidy payments. Experts have called it an overcorrection by the insurers.
That uncertainty continues as a federal court is expected to rule any day on Republican efforts to overturn the law completely.
The record amount of rebates expected to be delivered to customers is proof of the overcorrection, experts have said. Insurers are set to deliver $1.3 billion in rebates to customers, or dollars that weren't spent directly on their care, a tool used to limit insurer profits.
The administration's move to increase alternative and cheaper forms of coverage that lack certain protections has played a role in pilfering healthy people away from the exchanges. Republicans also zeroed out the financial penalty from the ACA's individual mandate — an important tool to drive relatively young and healthy people to sign up for coverage or risk a penalty.
The open enrollment period for the exchanges is Nov. 1 through Dec. 15. Coverage begins Jan. 1.