Premiums to rise for Obamacare’s most popular plans
WASHINGTON — Health insurance premiums will go up next year for the most popular plans under President Obama’s health care law.
But it will take time for families to determine the best bang for their budgets, even as a bigger political battle brews over the program’s future.
For many people, government subsidies will cushion the hit. And there’s a new factor: returning customers who are savvy about health insurance and prepared to shop for a better deal.
Scott Joens of St. George, Utah, said he and his wife expect premium increases of about 18 percent for 2015. But instead of agonizing, he is looking for a plan with a higher deductible — the amount of medical expenses that consumers are responsible for each year before insurance kicks in.
By switching, Joens could lower his monthly premiums.
Joens, in his 50s and semi-retired from the pharmacy business, said he will worry if the trend continues.
“I still have some years until I am on Medicare. My worry is by the time I’m 65, who knows where this will be?”
Experts say numbers alone don’t tell the story.
“How all this shakes out will depend on one big wild card,” said Larry Levitt of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. “Will current enrollees become savvy shoppers or just sit back and stay in their current plans? This is a new program with no precedent, so there’s no way to predict exactly what will happen.”
In a departure from the process that officials followed last year, the administration has not released its own analysis of 2015 premiums. Instead, it published raw data, leaving it to independent experts to parse the numbers.
They are finding an overall trend of rising premiums.
The analysts have focused on “silver” plans, the coverage level picked by about two-thirds of the customers on HealthCare.gov and state-run health insurance markets.
The rise isn’t too far out of line with employer-sponsored plans, which cover about 150 million people and make up the biggest chunk of the health-insurance market. Costs in those plans are expected to rise about 4.6 percent on average next year, according to benefits consultant Mercer.