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Individual market enrollment dropping amid premium increases

Individual market enrollment dropping amid premium increases
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Enrollment in the individual health insurance market — the market for people who don't get coverage through work — has declined 12 percent in the first quarter of 2018, compared to the same period last year, according to a new analysis released Tuesday. 

The analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation showed enrollment in the individual market grew substantially after the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and remained steady in 2016, before dropping by 12 percent in 2017. 

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There were 17.4 million people enrolled in the individual market in 2015, compared to 15.2 million in 2017 and 14.4 million in the first quarter of 2018. 

The study notes that much of the decline is concentrated in the off-exchange market, where a number of enrollees are not eligible for ObamaCare subsidies and therefore not protected from significant premium increases in 2017 and 2018. 

In this market, enrollment numbers dropped by 38 percent from the first quarter of 2017 to the first quarter of 2018.

The Trump administration last year canceled key ObamaCare subsidies for insurers, leading insurers to increase premiums substantially.

The anticipation of the repeal of ObamaCare's individual mandate has also contributed to premium increases. 

While ObamaCare enrollees who receive subsidies are mostly shielded from these increases, those who don't are left to pay the full price. 

"While the vast majority of exchange consumers receive subsidies that protect them from premium increases, off-exchange consumers bear the full cost of premium increases each year," the analysis notes.

"In 2017, states that had larger premium increases saw larger declines in unsubsidized ACA-compliant enrollment, suggesting a relationship between premium hikes and enrollment drops."

Despite the rises in premiums, enrollment in the ObamaCare exchanges has remained stable. There were 10.6 million people on the exchanges in the first quarter of this year, compared to 10.3 million in the first quarter of last year.