Skip to main content

Advanced Search

Advanced Search

Current Filters

Filter your query

Publication Types



Newsletter Article


Study Forecasts Premium Drops for Benchmark Exchange Plan

By John Reichard, CQ HealthBeat Editor

September 5, 2014 -- Based on the limited data available so far, 2015 health law insurance exchange premiums aren't shaping up to be much of a campaign issue for Republicans this fall–and Democrats may even be inclined to drop their customary reticence about the issue.

A new study by the Kaiser Family Foundation finds premiums for a key type of health plan sold in exchanges may actually drop slightly, providing potential savings not only for buyers but also for taxpayers footing the bill for the subsidies.

Premiums for the second-lowest-cost silver plan sold on the exchanges will fall an average of 0.8 percent in big cities in 15 states and in the District of Columbia, the study finds. That type of plan is significant because it's the benchmark that helps determine how much assistance eligible individuals receive, Kaiser analysts note.

"If early trends hold and average premiums for the benchmark silver plans decline across the country, the federal government could end up paying out less than expected in tax credit subsidies overall for 2015," according to a Kaiser summary of the findings.

The foundation's president, Drew Altman, said though there is variation, so far premium increases are generally modest. "Double digit premium increases in this market were not uncommon in the past," Altman said.

But there's still plenty of uncertainty about what rates will actually be when the 2015 open enrollment period begins Nov. 15. The study looks at rates in a big city in each the 15 states, not the entire state. And it's unclear what rates will look like in states that were not studied.

The overall appearance of favorable rates could furthermore be a mirage if consumers don't shop carefully, the Kaiser analysts warn.

Even people who get subsidies may face large premium hikes if they simply re-enroll in the plan they have this year, they said. In many cases, the lower-cost plans in 2014 will no longer fit that definition in 2015.

"Consumers should go into the open enrollment period prepared to shop for the best dal all over again," said Kaiser Senior Vice President Larry Levitt.

The steepest average drop in premiums for benchmark plans among the cities studied is in Denver, where the decline is 15.6 percent. In Nashville, that type of coverage will cost an average of 8.7 percent more, underscoring the need to avoid assumptions about rates.

Publication Details