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DHHS Report Shows More Options, Savings for N.C. Consumers Shopping in Health Insurance Marketplace

Dec. 4, 2014. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a report today that analyzes competition, choice and affordability in the Health Insurance Marketplace in 35 states. Today’s report shows that premiums for the second-lowest cost, or “benchmark,” silver plan held stable for 2015 coverage, with only a modest 2 percent increase on average before tax credits. Many consumers will be eligible for tax credits to help with the cost of monthly premiums.

The Health Insurance Marketplace is giving North Carolina consumers affordable options during Open Enrollment this year, and the majority of returning consumers who shop can save money on premiums.

With 25 percent more issuers participating in the Marketplace in 2015, based on analysis of 35 states, more than 90 percent of consumers nationwide will be able to choose from three or more issuers—up from 74 percent in 2014. In North Carolina, consumers can choose from 3 issuers in the Marketplace in 2015 – up from 2 in 2014.  And North Carolina consumers can choose from an average of 26 health plans in their county for 2015 coverage—up from 18 in 2014.

Nearly 8 in 10 current Marketplace consumers can find coverage in the 2015 Marketplace for $100 or less, taking into account any applicable tax credits. In 2014, 91 percent of North Carolina consumers who selected a Marketplace plan received financial assistance. For returning customers, it pays to shop.  More than 7 in 10 current Marketplace enrollees can find a lower premium plan in the same metal level—before tax credits—by returning to shop.  If all returning consumers switched from their current plan to the lowest-cost premium plan in the same metal level, the total savings in premiums would be over $2 billion. How much consumers can save if they shop varies from area to area, so consumers should go to HealthCare.gov to see what savings are available to them.

“The Health Insurance Marketplace is open for business, and North Carolina consumers have affordable choices for renewing their coverage and signing up for the first time,” said HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell. “In today’s Marketplace, issuers are competing for business. With additional quality, affordable plans available, returning North Carolina customers may find an even better deal if they shop and save.”

Before the Affordable Care Act, people who purchased health insurance plans in the individual market often saw double-digit rate increases on average, with very limited options for shopping around because plans could deny them coverage, or charge them higher rates based on pre-existing conditions or their gender. This year, consumers have the option to renew their current plan or shop around to select the plan that best meets their needs and their budget. And with the new window shopping tool at HealthCare.gov, it’s easier than ever.

Today’s report finds that premiums for the second-lowest cost, or “benchmark,” silver plan increased modestly in North Carolina for 2015 coverage, with a 8 percent increase on average before tax credits.

Open Enrollment in the Marketplace runs from Nov. 15, 2014, through Feb. 15, 2015.  Consumers should visit HealthCare.gov to review and compare health plan options. All consumers shopping for health insurance coverage for 2015—even those who currently have coverage through the Marketplace—should enroll or re-enroll between Nov. 15 and Dec. 15 in order to have coverage effective on Jan. 1, 2015.

Today’s report reflects individual market health plan premium data for 35 states. It does not include Oregon or Nevada, which are using the federal eligibility and enrollment platform this year, and other State-based Marketplaces.  Findings are presented at the county level, rather than by rating area, to better reflect plan service areas and the consumer experience.

For additional information on Health Plan Choice, Premiums and Affordability in the 2015 Health Insurance Marketplace, including data for states and select counties visit:http://aspe.hhs.gov/health/reports/2015/premiumReport/healthPremium2015.pdf

To preview plans, prices, covered benefits and physician and hospital networks in your area visit: https://www.healthcare.gov/find-premium-estimates/

Consumers can find local help at: Localhelp.healthcare.gov/. Or call the Federally-facilitated Marketplace Call Center at 1-800-318-2596. TTY users should call 1-855- 889-4325. Translation services are available. The call is free.