Premiums on benchmark HealthCare.gov plans decline 4% for 2020: CMS

Affordable Care Act
HealthCare.gov open enrollment is set to begin Nov. 1. (Getty/zimmytws)

Benchmark premiums for plans on HealthCare.gov are down 4% for the 2020 plan year, the Trump administration announced Tuesday—though affordability challenges remain for people enrolling in unsubsidized coverage. 

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released its annual look at the landscape of the Affordable Care Act’s qualified health plans ahead of open enrollment, which begins Nov. 1.

CMS said the average premium for a benchmark plan—or a state’s second-lowest-cost silver plan—will decline by 4% for a 27-year-old enrollee. 

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By comparison, average benchmark premiums decreased by 1% in 2018, CMS said. 

“Lower costs and more options for American patients is a key piece of the president’s vision for healthcare,” said Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on a call with reporters Monday evening. 

RELATED: BCBSA—ACA premiums in 23 states expected to rise 2.3% in 2020 

CMS said in the report that in six states—Delaware, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Utah—benchmark premiums will decrease on average by 10% or more. However, in Indiana, New Jersey and Louisiana, average benchmark premiums are set to increase by 10% or more in plan year 2020. 

CMS also reported an increase in insurer participation. In 2020, there will be 175 qualified health plan sponsors in the 38 states that use HealthCare.gov for enrollment, an increase of 20 from 2019. Just two states, Delaware and Wyoming, have a single exchange plan sponsor operating in 2020. 

On the media call, CMS Administrator Seema Verma touted policy changes under the Trump administration such as adjustments to special enrollment period criteria as key drivers of the increased participation. The insurers in the markets for 2020 include a mix of returning faces and new ones, she said.

"Our results speak for themselves," Verma said.

In its analysis, CMS warns that costs for people who not receive subsidies on the exchanges remain quite high. For a 27-year-old making 150% of the federal poverty level who enrolls in the lowest-cost silver plan, their average premiums are $52. 

RELATED: Handful of states mull getting off HealthCare.gov for their own exchanges 

However, for that same enrollee entering an unsubsidized lowest-cost silver plan, their average premiums are $374 for plan year 2020, according to the report. 

Deductibles in plans for 2020 are also on the rise, according to CMS’ data. Median individual deductibles in bronze plans are set to increase from $6,368 in 2019 to $6,741, while median individual silver plan deductibles are increasing from $4,471 to $4,604. 

For gold plans, median individual deductibles are set to increase from $1,251 in 2019 to $1,430. 

Open enrollment will conclude Dec. 15.

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