Premiums see big jump in 2014

Benefits Pro reports:

“How much are consumers actually paying for insurance now that Obamacare is here?

That’s what private exchange operator eHealth wanted to find out. And with its new research, it found unless you have subsidies, health insurance on the individual market is much more expensive under PPACA.

On Wednesday it launched the eHealth Price Index, “the first and only tool of its kind that tracks on a daily basis the average monthly cost of individual and family health insurance for plans based on applications submitted nationwide through eHealth,” the company said.

The price index charts daily changes in health insurance costs and comparisons to pre-PPACA coverage.

The average premium for an individual health plan selected through eHealth without a subsidy was $274 per month, as of Feb. 24. That’s a 39 percent increase from the average individual premium for pre-Obamacare coverage, eHealth said.

And the average family plan cost $663 per month, up 56 percent from a year ago.

But deductibles fell in 2014, from $4,900 a year for an individual in 2013, to $3,768 this year. For families, 2014 deductibles average $7,194 a year, less than the $10,568 it was in 2013.

Premiums are much higher, eHealth explains, because of beefed-up benefits in PPACA-compliant plans. The increase is also due in part to consumers choosing plans with fewer out-of-pocket costs.

Gary Lauer, CEO of eHealth Insurance, said the new index, which tracks health insurance prices, is all about transparency.

“We’ve seen from other studies that prices have increased across the board; our index shows what the average consumer is able to pay for new ACA-compliant plans, without any premium assistance,” Lauer said. “This makes it the first and best-available snapshot of enrollment trends outside of government exchanges.”

Lauer also said that a change in shopper demographics in recent weeks has led to lower premiums. In October, eHealth found the average customer was 44 and paid a premium of $374. In recent weeks, Lauer said, the average customer was 35 and paid a $273 premium. The average premium for family plans selected by eHealth customers went from $779 in mid-October 2013 to $663 on Feb. 25.

The eHealth index also found:

  • For both individual and family applicants, bronze plans have been the most popular since the beginning of open enrollment.
  • 39 percent of the individual and family applications submitted in the fourth quarter of 2013 at eHealth were from individuals between the ages of 18-34.
  • The average premium for individual policy holders in the 55 to 64 age range was $520 per month, and 21 percent of applicants were in this age range.
  • Among 2014 plans selected in the fourth quarter of 2013, the highest average monthly premium for individual plans was found in the state of Alaska ($496) and the highest average monthly premium for family plans was found in New Jersey ($1,004).