No widespread premium increases coming under ObamaCare, study says

A major new study on the likely effects of ObamaCare is challenging claims that the law will result in widespread premium increases in the individual and small-group markets. 

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President Obama's healthcare law will have varying price effects by state but will not increase premiums in the country overall, the nonprofit RAND Corporation said Thursday.

The nonpartisan research institution simulated the effects of the Affordable Care Act on the health insurance markets of 10 states and the United States as a whole, concluding that the law will substantially decrease the number of uninsured.  

On the individual market to buy health insurance, which is populated by people who do not receive coverage through their jobs, premium increases of up to 43 percent could take place in Minnesota, North Dakota and Ohio.

Health insurance premiums could decrease in Louisiana and New Mexico, researchers said, while they are likely to stay the same in Florida, Kansas, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas, as well as the United States generally.

The findings challenge predictions that ObamaCare will dramatically raise premiums and make healthcare less affordable across the country. 

Researchers acknowledged that premiums would increase in some states and for some individuals, such as smokers. But they concluded that tax credits to make coverage more affordable would neutralize most projected increases in out-of-pocket spending.

The study was sponsored by the federal Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, a division of the agency charged with launching the new health insurance exchanges. 

"Sweeping statements about the effects of the Affordable Care Act on premiums should be interpreted very carefully," study authors wrote.

"Non-group premiums are estimated to remain unchanged at the national level and in many states.

"Further, after accounting for tax credits, average out-of-pocket premium spending in the nongroup market is estimated to decline or remain unchanged in all states considered and in the nation overall."

Officials across the country are currently racing to prepare for open enrollment in the new marketplaces, which is scheduled to begin Oct. 1.

Some states have released preliminary rate information for their individual markets suggesting that ObamaCare will sharply increase prices (Florida and Ohio, for example) or sharply decrease them (New York and California).

While most rate projections have been incomplete, each one has sparked debate over how ObamaCare will affect healthcare prices.

The RAND study measured the likely effects of the Affordable Care Act in 2016, when the penalties for not purchasing insurance will be fully phased in.