October 31, 2016
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Health insurance rates headed for double-digit increases as plan enrollment begins tomorrow


The U.S. Health and Human Services department announced last week that health insurance premium increases will average 25 percent across the current 38 federal exchange states. Washington runs its own Health Benefit Exchange and the average premium increase is 13.6 percent with variations of 7.4-24 percent, according to the Puget Sound Business Journal.

However, premium increases are not the only issue for individuals and families purchasing coverage. Cost shares and deductibles are also on the rise. According to a new study by HealthPocket, the average The average deductible for 2017 bronze plans marks the first time this average has crossed the $6,000 threshold. Compared to 2016’s average of $5,731, the 2017 average bronze plan deductible for individuals is 6 percent higher ($6,092). For families enrolled in bronze plans, the average deductible will be more than $12,000 in 2017.

The Office of the Insurance Commissioner (OIC) announced nine insurers will sell 98 plans in the exchange in 2017. As reported by the OIC, the average increase of 13.6 percent or the average increase of 8 percent on plans as reported by the Washington Healthplanfinder for 2017 is considered a “success” when compared to the premium increase to the federal exchange states.

Indeed, when Washingtonians compare their average increase to federal exchange states experiencing the highest increases, such as Arizona at 116 percent; Oklahoma at 69 percent; Tennessee at 63 percent; and Minnesota at 59 percent; the increase appears more palatable.

Yet there remains concern about the sustainability of the federal subsidies for the exchange plans and the long-term impacts to the overall health care insurance system as well as a possible decline in enrollment numbers due to higher costs.

For individual and employer sponsored health care insurance plans sold outside the Exchange, the OIC stated there are 13 health insurers who have been approved to sell 151 plans in Washington’s individual market in 2017. 

As noted by the Washington Health Benefit Exchange Executive Director, Pam MacEwan, the state’s individual health plans are “competitive and healthy.” Washington’s robust outside market continues to offer choice and affordability for those who wish to purchase outside the state exchange.

According to The Hill, over 10 years, the total cost of health subsidies is expected to rise to $1.1 trillion.

Health insurance subsidies are expected to cost the federal government about $660 billion in 2016, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Open enrollment for purchasing a health care plan in the Washington state Health Benefit Exchange plan begins Nov. 1.



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Of course, you don't get rid of such assets. You don't speak of it, even in jest.

Read the full column in The Wenatchee World
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