Rate hikes, new doctors: Obamacare exchanges open to angst
As open enrollment starts Tuesday on the Affordable Care Act exchanges, consumers in some parts of the country are bracing for huge rate hikes, while many others are preparing to change insurers and likely doctors.
The crazy quilt of 2017 changes is creating angst among both supporters of the law and consumers under 65 who don’t get their insurance through work. And it comes as enrollment needs a big boost, especially of younger, healthier people to help offset insurers’ costs of covering the sicker people who have signed up so far.
“The way people are experiencing Obamacare varies tremendously across the country,” says Larry Levitt, a senior vice president of the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation. “In some states, the market is stable and in other places, it’s a bit of a mess.”
For example, the second lowest cost silver plan — which federal subsidies are based upon — was up 116% in Arizona and down 3% in Indiana. In Indiana, four insurers left the exchange and four remains, while consumers in all but one Arizona county only have one insurer to buy from.
Much of Southwest Florida, a region with uninsured rates above the national average, will have a single insurer from which they can select plans: Florida Blue.
Nearly 93,000 residents of the Gulf Coast counties enrolled in exchange plans during the last enrollment period, according to government figures. About 80,000 of them live in counties with a single provider this time around.
“This year, the vast majority of consumers will qualify for tax credits that help keep coverage affordable, and it’s easier than ever to shop around and compare options,” Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell said in a statement.
A key point of pride among Obamacare supporters is that about 20 million more people were insured early this year than in 2010 before the law took effect. Federal data out Monday also show, however, that there was no statistically significant difference between the number insured in the first six months of this year compared to the same period last year.
“I understand that poor people who get some federal relief will be able to get affordable health insurance, but middle-class individuals who want to buy health insurance are being shut out,” says Nebel, who is 53. “What kind of a country is it where I can’t leave and start my own company and-and get good health insurance?”
The law shouldn’t allow health plans to “dump sick people on other health plans,” says economist John Goodman, a critic of Obamacare who helped draft an alternative pending in the Senate. But that’s what the narrow networks of hospitals and doctors Young healthy people shouldn’t have to bear the burden either, says Goodman.