Report: Healthcare premium increases 'quite low' in 2015

Healthcare premiums will remain flat or drop in most parts of the country in 2015, according to a new report.

In a study by the nonpartisan Urban Institute, only two out of 17 states surveyed will see premium hikes of 5 percent or more. It will mark the second-straight year of modest increases.

Researchers say the new findings offer another sign that ObamaCare is working to tamp down costs.

“I think it says a lot,” said John Holahan, a health policy fellow at the Urban Institute who co-authored the report. “I think it’s a good story, a good outcome, of at least one aspect of the Affordable Care Act. What it intended to do seems to be working.”

He said insurance companies nationwide are feeling the pressure to offer affordable plans, and have been negotiating “aggressively” with doctors and hospitals to keep costs low.

The report, released Thursday, stands in stark contrast to warnings about rising premiums from the GOP and other ObamaCare critics.

“The dark predictions of widespread, quickly escalating premiums appear not to have materialized for 2015,” according to the report, funded by the nonpartisan Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

While people living in cities will generally receive good news about their premiums, those living in rural areas will face an opposite effect.

In Tennessee, for example, some rural counties will face a 21.4 percent increase. West Virginia will see a 9 percent increase. Most of these areas have had historically less competition among insurers, though the report said those costs would ultimately decrease under the healthcare law.

Still, the report cautioned that there are “significant uncertainties” while markets continue to fluctuate.

It warned that premium costs could rise in 2016, the first year in which insurance companies will have a full year of data about their customers that can be used to set premiums.

But Holahan said he doubted that insurance companies would raise their rates and risk losing out on the market.

“This is a real source of growth for a lot of these carriers,” he said. “We’re seeing more carriers, not fewer, want to come into this business and they’re coming in and setting premiums fairly aggressively.”