Affordable Care Act health premiums rising 3% after 2 years of decreases

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After two consecutive years of rate decreases, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Delaware – the only insurer offering  Affordable Care Act health plans in Delaware – will increase base rates an average of 3% for the 2022 plan year.

The plans are used by those who do not qualify for the state Medicaid program or do not have access to group coverage. Those eligible can include the self-employed.

The announcement comes from actuarial reviews and a public comment period on the insurer’s initial proposal of a 4% increase. While insurers are increasing rates across the nation,  federal subsidies from the Biden-Harris Administration have cut consumer costs by 40% and will continue to be applied in the 2022 plan year, according to a release from the Delaware Department of Insurance.

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The 2022 rate announcement comes after the end of the administration’s Special Enrollment Period, which gave residents the ability to enroll in 2021 ACA plans between February 15 and August 15. More than 5,377 Delawareans signed up for coverage during the special sign-up date.

Considering the 5% participation increase seen in last fall’s open enrollment, an estimated 30,000 Delawareans are now covered by 2021 Affordable Care Act plans. In addition, according to the Insurance Department, 23% of new and returning Delaware participants are enrolled in a plan costing $10 or less per month through the use of American Rescue Plan funds.

“Stability in the individual health insurance market is so critical as we continue to battle Covid-19 and healthcare shortages. Rates remain more than 15% lower than they were just a few years ago. With the American Rescue Plan, they’re more affordable than ever before,” said state Insurance Commissioner Trinidad Navarro. “Coupled with the safety net of the SEP, the past year has been positive for insurance access.”

Delaware SEP enrollment Feb. 15 through July 31 was more than double the same period last year, which saw higher-than-usual enrollment due to COVID, and is nearly triple the typical enrollment for this time of year.

The Trump Administration did not offer special enrollment periods, except for people who had lost existing coverage.

Final numbers are expected in the coming weeks. The success has led to proposals at the federal level for permanent open enrollment expansion and monthly enrollment opportunities.

Premium assistance will continue through 2022, and most Delaware marketplace enrollees will be eligible for these discounts that can reduce their monthly premiums.

Nationally, insurers are requesting premium increases as policy use is expected to rise, with more residents scheduling postponed elective procedures and visits. In addition, the rise of prescription costs continues to be a factor in premium planning.

All ACA plans offer essential health benefits, including coverage of pre-existing conditions, prescriptions, emergency services and hospitalization, mental and behavioral health coverage, outpatient care and telehealth, lab services, and more. In addition, ACA rates do not vary based on vaccination or Covid-19 status.

Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield Delaware offers 12 plans for individuals and families. In addition, two dental insurers – Delta Dental of Delaware, Inc. and Dominion Dental Services, Inc. – offer stand-alone dental plans on the marketplace.

Open enrollment for the Marketplace takes place between November 1 and December 15 each year. However, residents may qualify to enroll or change plans based on special circumstances, such as a loss of qualifying health coverage, income change, becoming a parent, and several other qualifying factors. Find out if you qualify for special enrollment.

Some eligible for ACA coverage say the premiums remain too expensive for families.  Others have turned to insurance with restrictions that include no coverage for pre-existing conditions. Some of these policies have been dubbed “junk insurance” due to the coverage gaps.

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