Obamacare Marketplaces to Offer 25% More Insurer Options in 2015, Possibly 'Better Value'

More health insurers will join the Affordable Care Act’s exchange marketplaces for 2015 in a move construed by Obamacare supporters as another sign of success.

The number of companies offering plans for 2015 will surge to 248, a 25 percent increase over this year, in the 44 states where the numbers are available, according to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, who spoke about the expanding insurer options during a speech Tuesday at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
But the impact of more insurance companies on premium prices is far from clear. The greater the competition, the greater the likelihood of falling prices or at least better coverage for similar prices — but this will not be the case for all states.
“Market entry results in more sellers while typically driving issuers to compete more aggressively on price and quality,” states the HHS report. “This, in turn, offers consumers better value and more opportunity to pick the plan that best meets their needs.”
The department offers details in a report published Tuesday.
Here are other highlights of the report:
• Four of the 36 states in the Federally-facilitated Marketplace (FFM) will have at least double the number of issuers they had in 2014.
• At least 67 issuers in the FFM and 10 issuers in the State-based Marketplacea (SBMs) will be new to the Marketplaces in 2015.
• Some of the nation’s largest insurers will be offering coverage for the first time in more than a dozen states, suggesting that the FFM and SBMs represent an increasingly attractive business opportunity
UnitedHealth Reverses Course
UnitedHealth Group, one of the largest insurers in the country, plans to sell coverage on exchanges in more than 20 states for 2015 after skipping this year in many states where it offered other plans.
Other big players include WellPoint, which sold more exchange plans than any other insurance carrier; Humana; and Aetna, along with numerous state-based Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans.
ACA insurance premiums tend to be lower in markets where multiple plans compete than in regions where one or two companies dominate.
Detailed information on premium prices for the Obamacare exchanges next year isn’t available yet. But the consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates the average rise will be 8.2 percent.
That is similar to or less than price increases in the years before Obamacare. Rate increases and decreases will vary substantially across the nation.
Open enrollment on the health insurance exchanges begins Nov. 15 and runs through Feb. 15.

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