GAO unveils pre-exchanges healthcare base prices

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report Tuesday listing first-quarter 2013 premium base prices for health plans in the small group marketplaces, before the rollout of the ObamaCare exchanges.

The report was put together by the GAO at the request of Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee, and creates a baseline to compare future premium price changes.

“These ranges could vary widely within a particular state for a number of reasons, including significant differences in the services covered, cost sharing features selected, and the factors considered when insurers set the premium rates for each small employer,” the report says.

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Small group market plans are for employers who have 50 or fewer employees. Starting in 2016, that definition will extend to employers with up to 100 employees.

Republicans have warned premium prices in general will skyrocket during the upcoming enrollment period but Democrats have argued their warnings are overblown.

However, in the midst of the debate there has been a lack of data to compare past premium prices to, which the GAO report now provides.

Starting this year, insurers providing plans in the small group market are no longer allowed to set their premium prices based on the health status of consumers, and as a result. insurers are likely to change the way they calculate prices.

The GAO is expected to release its 2014 report on premium prices at the end of the year, and Tuesday’s report will be used as a baseline to compare how prices have changed because of the new provisions.