The average price tag for the most popular level of insurance sold in the Affordable Care Act's federal marketplaces is dropping slightly, the first time the rates have stopped going up since the health plans were created a half-dozen years ago.
CMS has announced it expects the average ACA health plan premium to drop by 1.5 percent for healthy consumers that purchase low-priced silver tier plans. The rates are based on premiums for a 27-year-old non-smoker. The figures span the states that use the ACA's HealthCare.gov sign-up system.
But some states will see another round of increases.
States with the largest increases in benchmark premiums next year are DE, up 16.1 percent to $561 a month; Hawaii, up 12.5 percent, to $404; and North Dakota, up 20.2 percent, to $375.
"Though the average decrease is small, it is a dramatic and very positive change from the double-digit increases experienced over the past two years", CMS administrator Seema Verma told the Times. "While we are encouraged by this progress, we aren't satisfied".
In an interview with Fox News late Wednesday, Trump said that despite failed efforts to repeal and replace the Obamacare system previous year, "we have things happening on health care that are going to be very, very exciting". Initially insurers lost hundreds of millions of dollars and President Donald Trump tried to repeal the law so that undo can be done even if it is piece by piece.
One example of this is the reinsurance programs that some states have adopted for the individual marketplace. To make up for all the uncertainty, and for financial losses in their first years under the law, insurers demanded big rate increases, to bring their revenue into line with their costs. Azar heaped praise on Trump for the good news, but critics noted that rates are flattening out for 2019 after a significant jump for 2018 in response to the Trump administration's healthcare policymaking.
From 2017 to 2018, the bench mark rose 37 percent, officials said, and in the prior year it rose 25 percent.
Insurer participation is also improving next year. The administration had cut off funding for subsidies that helped some consumers afford out-of-pocket costs and insurers anticipated the effective end of a requirement for most Americans to get coverage, said Sabrina Corlette, a research professor at the Center on Health Insurance Reforms at Georgetown University.
Yet the administration claimed credit for the promising trend Thursday, saying Mr. Trump's tweaks paid off to despite claims of "sabotage" by Democrats, who'd predicted soaring rates in the run-up to the mid-term elections.
Ms. Verma said the approvals appeared to have a "direct impact" on rate requests.
Verma said that "Anthem, Wellmark, Molina and Cigna are returning to the markets after leaving in 2016 and 2017".
On the call with reporters, Verma also touted the administration's expansion of short-term, limited duration health insurance plans from under three months to up to three years. With reinsurance, they will settle in at $286 per month in 2019.
These slimmed-down insurance plans don't help people who drop their insurance from being penalized under the individual mandate, which is still in effect for 2018, but even with the penalty, these plans could be cheaper than paying for the ACA-approved plans, which cover more but cost more. "The prediction was that offering short-term plans would have a negative impact on the market".
Senate Democrats on October 10 tried to invalidate the rule expanding these short-term plans, which are meant to cover people facing a gap in insurance coverage, arguing that while they may have lower premiums, they can quickly become more expensive if someone has a serious health episode.