O-Care premiums stable nationwide

Health insurance premiums in ObamaCare's marketplaces did not rise on the whole for 2015, though 10 states saw double-digit increases, according to a new analysis.

Researchers at NORC at the University of Chicago found that the monthly cost for benchmark ObamaCare plans went unchanged between 2014 and 2015, while the average deductible for a marketplace plan rose by 1 percent.


The study, released by the Commonwealth Fund, called the trend "unprecedented" in the individual health insurance market, where premiums rose an average of 10 percent or more per year prior to the passage of the healthcare reform law.

"Many factors underlie this year’s stability in marketplace premiums, but three important contributors were: an increase in the number of participating insurance carriers; the design of the marketplaces; and the risk stabilization programs for participating insurers," the analysis stated.

At the same time, premiums increased by double digits in 10 state marketplaces, plus the District of Columbia. Average premiums declined in 14 states.

The analysis underscored the overall health of the insurance marketplaces in their second year. Enrollment is taking place until Feb. 15, and a total of 50 new carriers are offering plans this year.

The largest premium changes took place in Alaska, where average prices rose 31 percent; and Virginia, where costs fell by 56 percent.

"In certain states, those double-digit increases and decreases can be tied to a single insurer decision," the analysis stated.

"In Virginia, Optima Health, a carrier charging $2,000 a month for a silver plan, a figure nearly seven times the cost of the average silver plan, dropped this expensive plan, thereby sharply decreasing the average cost for plans in Virginia."

Study authors said plans were lower in price due to ObamaCare's risk corridors program, which has been at the center of a political fight on Capitol Hill. The program is designed to transfer money to insurers who fare worse under the new system from those that fare better.

"The risk stabilization programs ... diminish insurers’ risk of financial losses and allow them to price their plans more aggressively," the researchers wrote.

"The appeal of the marketplace structure and risk stabilization programs have, in turn, led to the increase in insurer participation, which also helps to contain costs."

—This story was updated on 12/30 to reflect that the research took place at NORC at the University of Chicago.