Report: Silver plan premiums increased 2.9 percent

Premiums for the lowest-cost Affordable Care Act health insurance policies, the silver plans, increased an average of 2.9 percent nationally from 2014 to 2015, according to new research from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).

The report examined marketplace premium increases--both information obtained from and state-run exchanges--for all rating regions in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

"Across the country, relative increases in the premiums associated with the lowest-cost silver plans were modest, although there were exceptions in a small number of states," the report said. Here's a brief breakdown by region:

  • In the Northeast, the population-weighted average increase in the lowest-cost silver plan premiums was 1.8 percent between 2014 and 2015. Two states in particular experienced sharp decreases in premiums: New Hampshire (17.5 percent) and Rhode Island (10.9 percent).
  • In the Midwest, the lowest-cost silver plan premiums increased an average of 3.5 percent in 2015. While most states experienced decreases or slight increases, Michigan and Minnesota both saw sharp increases--10.5 percent and 11.8 percent, respectively.
  • In the South, the lowest-cost silver plans increase on average 5.4 percent in 2015. Competition is lacking in Southerm states, as Blue Cross-affiliated plans dominate the region, and that affects premium prices. Mississippi did see a drop of 12.5 percent--mostly because UnitedHealth entered the market, the report said.
  • The overall increase in the West was just 1.4 percent. This data confirms previous findings in which Phoenix took the cake for offering the lowest-priced silver plans at $166. As FierceHealthPayer previously reported, premiums remain low in markets such as Phoenix due to competition as well as a low cost of living. 

The authors concluded that "the competitive success thus far is attributable to the managed competition framework built into the Affordable Care Act, where premium tax credits are tied to the second-lowest-cost silver plan in an individual's rating area." Additionally, insurers have been able to maintain low rates by developing more limited provider networks, noted the authors.

However, the ability to sustain low premiums has been questioned, as it could force insurers to dramatically raise prices in the future.

For more:
- here's the report