Premiums for 2017 health insurance plans purchased through HealthCare.gov will increase an average of 25 percent, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reported in an Oct. 24 research brief. By comparison, premiums increased an average of about 7.5 percent from 2015 to 2016.

The agency estimated changes in cost for each of the 39 states that participate in the federal exchange, using the second-lowest-cost silver plan and basing its estimates on a 27-year-old nonsmoker. The estimates varied substantially, from an average 3 percent decrease in Indiana and Massachusetts to an average increase of 116 percent in Arizona. The estimated median increase across all states was 16 percent.

The research brief stated that 84 percent of HealthCare.gov consumers receive financial assistance to offset the cost of their premium, and that tax credits increase dollar-for-dollar with the cost of a consumer’s benchmark plan, thereby protecting most consumers from rate increases. 

According to the brief, 72 percent of consumers who return to HealthCare.gov to purchase coverage will be able to find a plan with a monthly premium of $75 or less, after subsidies are taken into consideration.

Despite the recent exits of several large insurers from Marketplace exchanges, the report said consumers will have, on average, 30 plans from which to choose, and that 79 percent of consumers returning to the Marketplace for coverage in 2017 will be able to choose from at least two issuers. A total of 167 issuers will offer plans through the exchanges for 2017, compared with 232 for 2016.

HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell noted that insurers underpriced premiums in the first few years of Marketplace participation because they did not have data on which to base their costs. Now that they have actuarial data, they are adjusting their prices accordingly.

Open enrollment at HealthCare.gov begins Nov. 1.

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