Poll: Most Americans still say they can only afford premiums of $100 or less

For an industry traditionally scrutinized for low executive pay, one has to wonder what our executives are actually making.

In light of the recent premium increases on Affordable Care Act marketplace products, a new poll found that a majority of Americans still say $100 is the highest monthly premium payment they'd be able to afford.

In the poll, the health plan ranking service HealthPocket surveyed 1,133 individuals nationwide when open enrollment started, asking participants, “given the rate increases on health insurance, what is the highest monthly premium you could afford to pay for health insurance in 2017?” A majority of respondents, 52.5 percent, indicated $100 per month is the most they’d be able to pay.

Last year, a poll from HealthPocket had similar results, also illuminating the fact that those who receive subsidized plans have better access to affordable insurance than those who don’t.

This year, the 22 percent average national hike for benchmark ACA silver plans dwarfed last year’s 7.5 percent increase for those same plans, which the federal government uses to calculate subsidy outlays. Still, federal health officials have said 77 percent of current Healthcare.gov customers can find a plan for $100 or less, thanks to subsidies. But individuals who don’t get subsidies will get hit especially hard.

For millennials, which the Obama administration has targeted to help balance the risk pool, more than 60 percent said $100 per month for a health plan was all that fit in their budgets, according to this year's HealthPocket poll.

Kev Coleman, head of research and data at HealthPocket and director of the survey, noted in an email to FierceHealthPayer that since the survey is distributed among internet users, “you do have an issue" with the 10 percent to 15 percent of the population that has no internet access, "but this demographic segment is typically associated with very low income and is less likely to be purchasing insurance.”

Nevertheless, the most significant group the ACA is trying to target is not income-based, but age-based. Federal health officials are interested in expanding millennial enrollment "because millennials are more likely to use fewer healthcare services and, therefore, help stabilize premiums,” Coleman added.