Illinois consumers brace for 2018 Obamacare prices
One week before Obamacare enrollment begins, the Trump administration today revealed how much plans on the public health insurance exchange will cost in 2018.
Trump is providing shoppers an early look—enrollment lasts from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15—on the heels of a tumultuous year, during which he and Republican lawmakers failed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. That includes dismantling the exchanges where individuals and small businesses can buy health insurance.
This month, Trump made two major moves to undercut the exchanges. He halted subsidies to insurers that lower deductibles and copays for the poorest on the marketplace, and called for the expansion of cheap, bare-boned short-term health plans that experts say would woo healthy people from the exchanges, destabilizing them.
In Illinois, consumers have been bracing for an average 43% price hike and small businesses expected to pay on average 47% more from the four insurers selling plans through the federal online marketplace, HealthCare.gov. The price increases were disclosed this summer and reflect insurers anticipating Trump would cut subsidies, which he's called a bailout to carriers.
Nationwide, monthly premiums of silver plans will climb the most in 2018, on average 34% (31% in Illinois) compared to 2017, according to health care consultancy Avalere Health. That reflects a maneuver Illinois and more than two dozen other states made to shield consumers from steeper price hikes after Trump cut subsidies to insurers.
"These premium increases may allow insurers to remain in the market and enrollees in all regions to have access to coverage," Caroline Pearson, an Avalere senior vice president, said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the price of bronze plans in the U.S. increased on average 18%, gold plans 16% and platinum plans 24%. In Illinois, the average bronze plan costs 16% more, and the average gold plan 13% more, Avalere's analysis shows. There are no platinum plans for sale here.
Benefits-rich platinum and gold plans are typically the most expensive, but insurers pay a higher share of the medical bills, while bronze plans may be cheaper, but consumers pay more out of pocket.
Here's a look at what plans in metro Chicago will cost in 2018, focusing on the six-county region:
For a 27-year-old, the most expensive plan based on its monthly premium is in DuPage County, where a benefits-rich gold HMO policy from Celtic will cost $484 a month, along with a $1,000 deductible that must be paid before Celtic will start covering a portion of medical bills. The cheapest plan is in Cook County, where a bronze HMO from Cigna will cost about $250 a month with a $7,150 deductible.
Last year, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Illinois sold the most expensive plan to 27-year-olds. The plan, in Cook County, was nearly $2 more a month than Celtic's offering in 2018, with a deductible that cost $750 more. The cheapest plan was from Cigna in Cook County, costing about $30 less a month with a $500 cheaper deductible compared to this year's offering.
For a 60-year-old, the most expensive plan in 2018 is in DuPage County, a Celtic gold HMO with a $1,253 monthly premium and a $1,000 deductible. The cheapest? Cigna's bronze HMO in Cook County, with a $647 monthly premium and a $7,150 deductible.
Last year, Blue Cross sold the most expensive plan to 60-year-olds. It was in Cook County, costing about $3 a month more than Celtic's plan this year, and with a $750 more expensive deductible. The cheapest plan in 2017 was an HMO from Cigna also in Cook County, with a $571 monthly premium and a $6,650 deductible.
For a 40-year-old couple with two kids, the most expensive plan is a gold HMO from Celtic in DuPage County, with a nearly $1,900 monthly premium and a $1,000 deductible. The cheapest is a bronze HMO from Cigna in Cook County with a roughly $975 monthly premium and a $14,300 deductible.
Last year, Blue Cross had the most expensive plan for this family, a gold PPO in Cook County that was slightly cheaper than Celtic's policy (about $1,772 a month) with a much pricier deductible of $5,250. Cigna sold the cheapest plan, a bronze HMO in Cook County that cost $805 a month, with a $13,300 deductible.
Many buyers won't pay the full price tag. The plans do not include federal subsidies that low-income people qualify for to lower the cost of the plans. In 2016, 79% of the roughly 356,000 Obamacare buyers in Illinois received a federal tax credit to cheapen their monthly premiums, while 47% received aid to lower the cost of their deductibles and copays, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based nonprofit that tracks Obamacare.
The Illinois Department of Insurance is encouraging consumers to shop early. The enrollment period this year is shorter than in previous years, and the Trump administration plans to shut down the exchange for 12 hours on nearly every Sunday for maintenance.
In a statement, Blue Cross spokeswoman Colleen Miller said the carrier is the only insurer offering individual and family plans statewide, both on and off the exchange. "We price our plans according to many factors, including the rising cost of health care," she said in the statement.
Cigna would not explain in an interview how its 2018 plans are among the cheapest in the six-county region. In a statement, Cigna spokesman Joe Mondy said, "Our competitive pricing is a result of our deep and strong collaborative relationships with high-quality providers in the Chicago community."
A Celtic spokesperson did not immediately comment.
"Let the shopping begin: Trump reveals 2018 Obamacare prices" originally appeared in Crain's Chicago Business.
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