What Do Lower Exchange Premiums Mean?

For the first time in the history of the Affordable Care Act, exchange premiums are decreasing in Pennsylvania. Insurance Commissioner Altman announced an aggregate average decrease of 2.3 percent for individual plans. This is a long-awaited breath of fresh air for consumers and, as Capitolwire’s Chris Comisac noted, probably a correction after last year’s dramatic 30.6 percent increase. But last year’s large rate hikes were far from an anomaly. And this year's good news is far from the relief families need.


(Infographic: 2018 Update: Pennsylvania's Health Care Exchange)

For four years, Pennsylvanians purchasing health insurance on the exchange have weathered annual double-digit premium hikes. Insurance companies seem to expect relative stability in the next year, despite Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's talk of revisiting health care reform post-election.

Statewide trends aside, some of the exchanges most popular plans will see another round of premium increases. For instance one of the most popular insurers, UPMC Health Options Inc., will increase premiums on average by 2 percent.

The exchanges well-meaning restrictions on considering pre-existing conditions and age have driven healthy enrollees to off-exchange plans, employer plans, or even health insurance alternatives like health sharing ministries.

A better way to provide accessible coverage to those with expensive health conditions is proposed under the Healthcare Solutions Act. The legislation gives states block grants to create reinsurance, high-risk pools, or other innovations targeted at this hard-to-insure population, instead of driving up costs for hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians. An recent analysis estimates it could reduce individual premiums by a third, while providing better quality to care to those with chronic conditions.

A break from years of large premium hikes is good news, but this year is an exception to the rule. Clearly greater government involvement is not the path to affordable and accessible health care.