State: 2015 ‘Obamacare’ insurance prices will be modest increase or decrease from last year

SHARE State: 2015 ‘Obamacare’ insurance prices will be modest increase or decrease from last year
SHARE State: 2015 ‘Obamacare’ insurance prices will be modest increase or decrease from last year

When Illinois residents are able to shop for 2015 health insurance plans through President Obama’s health care law, they should expect to see prices slightly increase or drop for many of the plans, compared to what they paid last year, the state said Friday.

But in the Chicago area, consumers will see some plans increase as much 10 percent to 15 percent more than they did last year.

In the majority of Illinois counties, prices that a consumer would need to pay for the least expensive “silver plan” would range from having to pay 5 percent more or 5 percent less than they did in 2014, the Illinois Department of Insurance said.

Overall, the premiums for the lowest cost silver plans will see an average premium increase of just 2.6 percent across the state.

“With more carriers offering plans in year two, there are more choices for consumers,” said Illinois Department of Insurance Director Andrew Boron in a statement. “Increased competition has led to competitive pricing and individuals, families and small businesses will have access to an even wider selection of affordable health care options in 2015.”

The number of insurance plans offered for 2015 will be 410 — more than double last year’s offerings of 165, the state said. And three more insurers than last year will be part of the marketplace this year.

In the Chicago-area, premiums for a silver plan — the plan most Americans have chosen in the past — increased at most 5 percent for an individual.

Yet, Chicago-area consumers wanting to get a “bronze plan” for an individual will pay 10 to 15 percent more than the 2014 plans — one of the few exceptions to prices either decreasing or increasing modestly. The state theorized that the silver plans may have seen more competition among insurers because of the subsidies available, while many of the issuers offering the lowest cost bronze plan remained the same between 2014 and 2015.

The number of insurance plans offered for 2015 will be more than 400 – more than double last year’s offerings of 165, the state said. And three more insurers than last year will be part of the marketplace this year.

However, the state has not released the actual plans being analyzed. And the full list of all insurance plans that will be available on the HealthCare.gov for Illinois residents isn’t yet available. So the department’s analysis couldn’t be verified by the Chicago Sun-Times.

The federal government said Friday that consumers will be able to start seeing plans — but not enroll to them yet — this weekend, the Associated Press said.

Starting Nov. 15, Illinoisans – and other Americans – will be able to purchase health insurance plans in the Affordable Care Act’s online marketplace, where consumers are supposed to find more affordable options available with the help of tax credits.

Individuals and families making 133 percent to 400 percent of the federal poverty level are supposed to get a tax credit that helps them pay their premiums, if purchased through the marketplace on HealthCare.gov. That works out to up to $45,960 for an individual and up to $94,200 for a family of four.

Health insurance plans offered through the marketplace are categorized as bronze (lowest cost), silver, gold or platinum (highest cost). All plans are required to carry what’s considered “essential health benefits,” such as maternity benefits and prescription drugs. Bronze plans, though, would have lower premiums but higher out-of-pocket costs such as co-pays.

The department of insurance gave these hypothetical examples for what different types of consumers would pay for premiums:

A single 30-year old in Chicago or Peoria, with a household income of $23,000 could be eligible for a subsidy of $72 per month in Chicago or $88 in Peoria, that could bring their monthly cost to $119 per month in both cities on the second-lowest cost silver plan, versus paying $121 per month for that plan in 2014.

And a couple from Chicago or Peoria, both aged 55, with household income of $40,000 could be eligible for a subsidy of $479 in Chicago and $540 in Peoria that could bring their costs for the second lowest silver plan to about $273 per month in 2015 versus about $276 for that plan in 2014.

Information about how much these people would have to pay for deductibles in various plans was not given.

Last year, the lowest prices often came with two negatives: fewer options for doctors and higher deductibles. (A deductible is the amount consumers must pay each year before their plan starts picking up the bills.)

In addition to the silver plans, the state also analyzed other plans. Premiums for the bronze plan varied from a decrease of 3 percent to an increase of 19 percent, with an average increase of 11 percent across the state. Premiums for the lowest cost gold plans, meanwhile, ranged from a decrease of 7 percent to an increase of 18 percent.

Caroline Pearson, vice president at Avalere Health, said the plans given in Illinois match with what was seen in most other states.

“That means that new consumers coming into the market will be able to get very affordable products similar to what we saw last year,” Pearson said.

She advised people who bought a plan last year, though, to examine the new plans available — even though they would automatically be enrolled in the same plan if they did nothing. As the state noted that some of the lowest-priced silver plans in 2015 may not be the same as the plans that had that distinction in 2014.

The open enrollment period for purchasing 2015 health insurance plans will be from Nov. 15 to Feb. 15.

The penalty for not having health insurance will be 2 percent of income or $325 per person next year, up from $90 or 1 percent this year. It will continue to increase.

Insurers taking part in this year’s marketplace will be: Coventry Health and Life Insurance Company; Coventry Health Care of Illinois, Inc.; Health Alliance Medical Plans, Inc.; Health Care Service Corporation (Blue Cross Blue Shield); Humana Health Plan, Inc.; Humana Insurance Company; Humana Health Plan, Inc.; Humana Insurance Company; IlliniCare Health Plan, Inc.; Land of Lincoln Mutual Health Insurance Company; Time Insurance Company, and UnitedHealthcare of the Midwest, Inc.

Contributing: Art Golab


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