TUESDAY, DECEMBER 2, 2014
The Associated Press writes:
Consumers across most of America will see their health insurance premiums go up next year for popular plans under President Barack Obama's health care law. But it will take time for families to figure out the best bang for their budgets-even as a bigger political battle brews over the programs future. For many people, government subsidies will cushion the hit. And there's a new factor: returning customers who are savvy about health insurance and prepared to shop for a better deal. Scott Joens of St. George, Utah, said he and his wife are facing premium increases of about 18 percent for 2015. But instead of agonizing, he's looking for a plan with a higher deductible, which is the amount of medical expenses that consumers are responsible for each year before insurance kicks in. By switching he could lower his monthly premiums. Joens, in his 50s and semi-retired from the pharmacy business, said he'll worry if the trend keeps going. "It's not a major hardship," he said. "But I still have some years until I am on Medicare. My worry is by the time I'm 65, who knows where this will be?" Overall, he said he's been very satisfied with his "gold" plan this year. In a departure from the process that officials followed last year, the administration has not released premiums. Instead, it published raw data, leaving it to independent experts to parse the numbers. What they are finding points to an overall trend of rising premiums, although not everywhere. The analysis have focused on "silver" plans, the coverage level picked by about two-thirds of the customers on HealthCare.gov and state-run health insurance markets. A study from the market analysis firm Avalere Health found that premiums for the lowest-cost silver plan will go up by 10 percent on average in communities across the country. A Kaiser Foundation study took a different approach, focusing on premiums for the second-lowest-cost silver plan in every country. That type of plan is a benchmark the government uses for setting consumer premium subsides for the entire program. Kaiser found that premiums for the second-lowest-cost silver plan are going up in 59 percent of countries nationwide, down in 34 percent, and remaining flat in 7 percent. Eighteen percent of countries will see an increase of more than 10 percent. At the other end of the spectrum, 13 percent of countries will see a decrease of more than 10 percent.