Health insurance premiums on the Affordable Care Act’s marketplaces (also called exchanges) are expected to increase faster in 2017 than in previous years because:
The second-lowest silver plan is one of the most popular plan choices on the marketplace and is also the benchmark that is used to determine the amount of financial assistance individuals and families receive. The table below shows these premiums for a major city in each state with available data. (We have been reporting premiums in these cities since the launch of the ACA’s exchanges in 2014; similar analyses for 2015 and 2016 are also available.)
Across these major cities in 2016, the second-lowest silver premium for a 40-year-old non-smoker ranged from $186 per month in Albuquerque, NM to $719 in Anchorage, AK, before accounting for the tax credit that most enrollees in this market receive. In 2017, the second-lowest silver premium for a 40-year-old non-smoker living in these cities will range from $229 in Louisville, KY and Cleveland, OH to $904 in Anchorage, AK, before accounting for the tax credit.
Of these, the places with the largest increases in the unsubsidized second-lowest silver plan were Phoenix, AZ (up 145% from $207 to $507 per month for a 40-year-old non-smoker), Birmingham, AL (up 71% from $288 to $492) and Oklahoma City, OK (up 67% from $295 to $493). Meanwhile, unsubsidized premiums for the second-lowest silver premiums will decrease in Indianapolis, IN (down -4% from $298 to $286 for a 40-year-old non-smoker), Cleveland, OH (down -2% from $234 to $229), Boston, MA (down -1% from $250 to $247), and Providence, RI (down -1% from $263 to $261) and increase just 1% in Little Rock, AR (from $310 to $314).
Most enrollees in the marketplaces receive a tax credit to lower their premium. In most parts of the country in 2016, a 40-year-old adult making $30,000 per year would pay about $208 per month for the second-lowest-silver plan. If this person is willing to switch to whatever the new second lowest-cost silver plan is in 2017, they will pay a similar amount (the after-tax credit payment for a similar person in 2017 is $207 per month or a change of 0%). In some parts of the country (for example, in Albuquerque, NM), premiums for a 40-year-old are so low in 2016 that an enrollee making $30,000 may not have qualified for a subsidy. In these places, an increase in the benchmark silver premium may make them newly-eligible for financial assistance.
As a result of losses in this market, some insurers like UnitedHealth and Aetna have announced their withdrawal from the ACA marketplaces or the individual market in some states. In 2016, the number of insurers participating in each state (grouped by parent company) ranged from 1 in Wyoming to 16 in Texas. In states that use Healthcare.gov, the average number of insurers participating in the marketplace will be 3.9 in 2017 (down from 5.4 companies per state in 2016, 5.9 in 2015 and 4.5 in 2014). Marketplace insurer participation in states using Healthcare.gov in 2017 ranges from 1 company in Alabama, Alaska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Wyoming, to 15 companies in Wisconsin.