80 new insurance carriers to join O-Care

The healthcare marketplace under ObamaCare will grow significantly in its second year, with the number of participating insurers increasing by 25 percent, officials announced Tuesday. 

Nearly 80 new insurance carriers will enter the marketplace next year, which officials say will give customers “significantly more choice for coverage,” according to a report by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). 

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Federal officials predict that more competition within the marketplace will drive down costs as companies “compete more aggressively on price and quality.” As a result, they say, customers will have more options while picking their coverage. 

A majority of the new companies will join the federal marketplace, which operates in 36 states. Nearly every state out of the 44 that have provided data to HHS will add at least one new carrier. 

HHS has previously reported every new carrier translates into an average of 4 percent lower premiums for people in that region. 

“In terms of affordability, access and quality, today’s news is very encouraging. It’s a real sign that the Affordable Care Act is working,” HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said in a release. Burwell will also deliver a speech Tuesday afternoon addressing ObamaCare.

Under the health insurance exchanges, consumers can pick out their coverage online, comparing plans side-by-side and sorting by the monthly premiums. 

While this helps small plans compete, larger insurance companies have remained hesitant to sign on. 

But some of the country’s largest insurers will enter nearly a dozen new states this year, including BlueCross BlueShield and EmblemHealth. 

The biggest jumps in coverage will occur in states such as West Virginia and New Hampshire, where only one carrier had previously offered coverage. 

During ObamaCare’s first year, more than 80 percent of people lived in an area that was covered by at least three insurance carriers, and 96 percent of people could choose between at least two carriers. 

There were an average of five carriers in each area, with the option to select 47 plans on average through the marketplace. 

Ten insurers will also leave the marketplace next year, though HHS said those carriers' exit will not impact competition.