NEW YORK — Premiums will increase an average of 7.5% for the benchmark silver insurance plan next year in the 37 states using the federal Obamacare exchange, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
The HHS report, released late Monday, focuses on the monthly premiums for the benchmark silver plan, the second lowest cost plan, which is used to calculate premium subsidies. It did not look at the District of Columbia and 13 states that run their own exchanges.
The largest increase among the 37 states was in Oklahoma, where the benchmark plan’s premium rose by an average of 36%. Other states with premium increases of more than 25% were Alaska, Montana and New Mexico.
The largest drop in premiums occurred in Indiana, where the average price of a benchmark silver plan will decrease by 13%. Average benchmark plan premiums will also drop in Maine, Mississippi and Ohio, according to the government figures.
The government also released changes in a sampling of prices in 30 regions, showing increases of 15% or more in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Charlotte, North Carolina, Salt Lake City, and Tulsa, Oklahoma, among others. Cities in HHS’ sample where prices dropped were Cleveland, Ohio; Detroit; Indianapolis; Tampa-St. Petersburg and San Antonio.
HHS did not provide a breakdown of how much average plans will cost in dollar figures in each state and these regions, although people can individually search using their zip code on the Obamacare website, healthcare.gov.
Some places with large increases were exceptionally cheap last year, so their actual cost may not be out of line from national trends even with price jumps. For instance, Phoenix’s benchmark plan is going up 19% for next year. But Phoenix’s cheapest silver plan this year had the least expensive premiums in the nation, costing a 40-year-old $166 a month.
However, other places seeing price spikes already have expensive insurance. In Alaska, which this year was the nation’s most expensive region with a 40-year-old paying $488 for the cheapest silver plan, the cost of the benchmark silver plan is going up 32%.
Other rate analyses are also estimating increases in the 2016 benchmark plans. An updated Kaiser Family Foundation analysis found that premiums for benchmark plans in major cities in 48 states and the District of Columbia would rise an average of 10.4% next year before accounting for the tax credits. For comparison, benchmark rates in those cities were essentially flat in 2015 before accounting for tax credits.
Open enrollment begins Nov. 1, and HHS officials last week unveiled a series of improvements to healthcare.gov, designed to make this year’s enrollment season faster and smoother than in previous years.
HHS officials urged consumers currently enrolled in coverage to come back to the exchange and shop to see if they can get a better deal. Last year’s returning customers who switched plans within the same tier of coverage saved an average of nearly $400 on their 2015 annualized premiums after tax credits as compared to those who stayed in their same plans, according to HHS.
The HHS analysis also found that nearly eight in 10 people who had marketplace coverage in 2015 will be able to purchase health insurance that costs less than $100 per month next year once the law’s monthly tax credits are applied. About seven in 10 returning consumers will be able to buy a plan for $75 per month in 2016 with tax credits.
Also, thousands of consumers will have to switch insurers because their current insurer has either folded or stopped offering policies on the Obamacare exchanges. At least nine co-operative insurers set up by health reform will not be offering plans in 2016, and several smaller insurers have pulled out, due to shaky finances. On the flip side, several larger insurers are expanding their reach on the exchanges.