HHS: Though premiums on the rise, ACA coverage still affordable

With open enrollment underway on the federal and state marketplaces, a new report from the federal government emphasizes that while some premiums will rise in 2016, coverage remains affordable for many.

The report, from the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, echoes recent statements from HHS that tout the money-saving potential of returning to the marketplace to shop for coverage. It notes that 8 in 10 current enrollees could find a lower-premium plan at the same metal level by shopping around.

It also emphasizes that with applicable advance premium tax credits, 72 percent of current marketplace enrollees can find a plan for $75 or less per month, and 78 percent can find one for $100 per month. A recent survey revealed many consumers say they can afford only $100 in premiums per month.

HHS has announced recently that the average premium for the Affordable Care Act's benchmark--or second-lowest-cost silver--plan, is set to rise 7.5 percent in 2016. In addition, according to PwC's Health Research Institute, premium increases among benchmark plans experienced a median annual change of about 4.4 percent over a three-year period, which the organization characterizes as a "modest" rise. For comparison, employer premiums have risen an average of 5 percent each year for the last decade.

A new report from Avalere, meanwhile, finds that the average lowest-cost silver plan in states with a federal exchange increased by 13 percent from 2015 to 2016, compared to 3.2 percent from 2014 to 2015. Still, it notes that prices in the exchange market vary widely by geography.

What's more, "while premiums have increased dramatically in many markets, the vast majority of exchange enrollees receive premium subsidies that can protect them from these increased costs," Caroline Pearson, senior vice president, says in a summary of the findings.

To learn more:
- here's the HHS report
- check out a summary of PwC's analysis
- read the Avalere report
- here's the Avalere report summary

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