Analysis: Premiums for most popular ObamaCare plans to rise 34 percent

Analysis: Premiums for most popular ObamaCare plans to rise 34 percent
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Premiums for the most popular ObamaCare plans are rising by an average of 34 percent in 2018 in states that use Healthcare.gov, according to a new independent analysis.

The study released Wednesday by consulting firm Avalere Health said the premium increases in "silver" plans are being driven primarily by marketplace instability amid uncertainty over the future of ObamaCare.

Specifically, the study said the Trump administration's elimination of cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments, lower than anticipated enrollment in the marketplace, limited insurer participation and insufficient action by the government to reimburse plans that cover higher-cost enrollees all helped contribute to the premium increases.

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"Plans are raising premiums in 2018 to account for market uncertainty and the federal government's failure to pay for cost-sharing reductions," Caroline Pearson, senior vice president at Avalere, said in a statement. "These premium increases may allow insurers to remain in the market and enrollees in all regions to have access to coverage."

Silver plans are considered the benchmark plans for people who purchase insurance through an ObamaCare exchange. Average premiums for bronze, gold and platinum plans will rise 18, 16 and 24 percent, respectively, the analysis found.

Premium increases will vary significantly by state. For example, Iowa will see a 69 percent jump in average silver plan premium compared to 2017, while Alaska will see a 22 percent decrease in premiums for 2018.

Dozens of states are allowing insurers to add a surcharge onto the silver plans because of the discontinuation of the CSRs.

This results in more tax credits becoming available, which could help consumers afford plans that would otherwise have been too expensive.

The vast majority of exchange enrollees are subsidized and can avoid premium increases, if they select the lowest or second lowest cost silver plan in their region.

However, some unsubsidized consumers who pay the full premium cost may choose not to enroll for 2018 due to premium increases, Avalere said.

Democrats have accused President Trump of attempting to "sabotage" ObamaCare through moves such as canceling the CSR and cutting funding for outreach by 90 percent. 

Avalere's study came out the same day the Department of Health and Human Services said it would not be setting a sign-up goal for this year's ObamaCare enrollment period.