Steven Depolo / CC-BY-2.0

The cost of private health insurance arranged under President Obama’s health care law will rise by double-digit percentages, and many Americans will have only one insurer to choose from, the White House has confirmed.

The Associated Press reports:

Before taxpayer-provided subsidies, premiums for a midlevel benchmark plan will increase an average of 25 percent across the 39 states served by the federally run online market, according to a report from the Department of Health and Human Services. Some states will see much bigger jumps, others less.

Moreover, about 1 in 5 consumers will only have plans from a single insurer to pick from, after major national carriers such as UnitedHealth Group, Humana and Aetna scaled back their roles.

“Consumers will be faced this year with not only big premium increases but also with a declining number of insurers participating, and that will lead to a tumultuous open enrollment period,” said Larry Levitt, who tracks the health care law for the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. …

In some states, the premium increases are striking. In Arizona, unsubsidized premiums for a hypothetical 27-year-old buying a benchmark “second-lowest cost silver plan” will jump by 116 percent, from $196 to $422, according to the administration report.

But HHS said if that hypothetical consumer has a fairly modest income, making $25,000 a year, the subsidies would cover $280 of the new premium, and the consumer would pay $142. Caveat: if the consumer is making $30,000 or $40,000 his or her subsidy would be significantly lower.

The total number of insurers will drop from 232 this year to 167 in 2017, a loss of 28 percent. Switching insurers will be a burden for patients with chronic conditions or other complications.

While many carriers are offering a choice of plan designs, most use a single prescription formulary and physician network across all their products, explained Pearson. “So, enrollees may need to change doctors or drugs when they switch insurers,” she said.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has proposed “an array of fixes, including sweetening the law’s subsidies and allowing more people to qualify for financial assistance,” AP reports. Americans are the ones who will pay either way, as subsidy money comes from taxpayers and represents a loss of public services Americans could otherwise provide themselves.

Additionally, the penalty for not having purchased health insurance during 2016 is set to double at tax time in 2017. CBS New York reports:

According to the IRS, shared responsibility payments will jump to $695 per adult and $347.50 per child, with the family maximum not to exceed $2,085 or 2.5 percent income above the filing threshold. That’s up from $325 per adult and $162.50 per child, with a maximum of $975 per family for the 2015 tax year.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly

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Source: Truthdig

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