Early analysis finds higher ObamaCare premium hikes

ObamaCare premium increases will be higher than last year, according to a new analysis of early data. 

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The analysis from the consulting firm Avalere Health finds that proposed ObamaCare premiums for silver-level plans are increasing an average of 16 percent in nine states that so far have complete data. 

The proposed increases for silver plans, the most popular, vary widely, from a 44 percent average increase in Vermont to a 5 percent increase in Washington state. 

The increases appear to be higher than last year on average. An Avalere analysis at a similar point in the process last year found an average increase of about 6 percent. 

There are important caveats. First, these increases are not final yet, and state regulators can reject them. Still, final rates are expected to see widespread increases as well. 

“While rates can come down dramatically between proposed and final filings, Avalere analysts say premium increases in 2017 appear to be higher than in 2016,” the study finds. 

ObamaCare’s financial assistance, which caps the percentage of income that most enrollees have to pay for premiums, will also shield many people from having to pay the premium increases. 

“Despite premiums rising overall, many consumers will be insulated from higher rates due to premium subsidies that limit monthly costs for many exchange enrollees,” said Caroline Pearson, senior vice president at Avalere. “Consumers may have to switch plans in order to avoid dramatic rate increases, but competitive options should still be available in most regions in the U.S.”

Republicans have already been pointing to the coming increases and making clear they will highlight them in the campaign. 

Premium increases for the lowest-cost silver plan appear to be smaller, at an average of 6 percent, which Avalere attributes to competition among insurers to gain enrollees on these popular plans. 

Driving the higher overall premium increases this year, Avalere points to a range of factors, including a pool of enrollees that is smaller and sicker than expected. 

“Premium increases may be necessary to account for the population enrolled and make the market sustainable over time,” the study finds.