Preliminary data out of Connecticut suggests that health care premiums for coverage in the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchanges could actually decrease in 2015, undermining the claims of critics who argue that double digit spikes will cause the health care law to unravel.
Through the final premium data will not be finalized until insures submit rate proposals in the coming weeks for review, actuaries consulting with the Connecticut exchange are telling the Connecticut Mirror that changes in plan design for bronze-level policies could potentially result in up to a 3 percent decrease in premiums compared to the 2014 plans and relatively modest premium increases for other coverage levels. Premiums for the standard silver plan could increase by 2.7 percent, the actuaries note, while premiums for standard gold plans could cause a 0.7 percent increase.
As was the case in 2014, plans with lower premiums come with a tradeoff: higher out-of-pocket costs. For instance a standard bronze plan will have a deductible of $5,000 for individuals, up from $3,250 in 2014. Beneficiaries enrolled in the standard silver plan, however, will see lower deductibles for medical services and prescription drugs than the 2014 standard silver plan. The limit on maximum out-of-pocket costs will increase, however.
In 2015, consumers will also experience more plan choices in the exchange and more expansive provider networks. Connecticut will now require that “insurers’ exchange networks cover at least 85 percent of the health care providers and facilities as their plans sold outside the exchange,” up from 80 percent in 2014.
Connecticut’s early data is in line with the expectations of some health economists. A recent analysis from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Urban Institute predicted that in many areas of the country, “premium increases will be moderate (in line with underlying cost growth) rather than growing by double-digits” in 2015. The economist, John Holahan, attributed the trend to the relatively low rate of growth in health care costs, higher enrollment from healthier enrollees, higher cost sharing, and higher insurer participation in the nongroup market.
208,301 Connecticut residents signed up for health care coverage through the state’s exchange in 2014.