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Study: Health Plan Buyers Will Save Money If They Shop

You better shop around.

For holiday gifts?

No, for a 2016 health insurance plan on the federal marketplace, healthcare.gov.

Millions of consumers who are enrolled this year could pay higher rates if they stay in the same health plan next year, according to a study released Wednesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The KFF analysis found that in nearly three-quarters of counties in 36 states served by healthcare.gov, the lowest-priced silver plan this year will not be the lowest priced next year. People in those plans could save money on premiums by switching to a different silver plan in 2016. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)

If they don’t switch, their premium would increase an average of 15 percent before any tax credit is included. More than 80 percent of consumers on the federal marketplace receive a tax subsidy to lower their costs.

Most consumers who previously enrolled on healthcare.gov who don’t actively shop by Dec. 15 will be automatically renewed in the same or a similar plan beginning Jan. 1. Open enrollment on the marketplaces began Nov. 1 and ends Jan. 31.

The lowest-cost silver plan is the most popular selection in the Affordable Care Act marketplaces.

Over a year, a 40-year-old who switches to that lowest-cost silver plan in 2016 could save an average of $322 in premiums, the analysis finds. The average premium savings could be more than $500 per year in 16 percent of counties, the study found.

Last year, nearly 53 percent of consumers who re-enrolled in a marketplace plan shopped around, with about half of those selecting a new plan, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Those who switched plans within the same metal tier saved an average of nearly $400 on their 2015 annualized premiums after tax credits as compared to those who stayed in their same plans.

The Obama administration said last month that nearly 80 percent of returning marketplace consumers in 2016 will be able to buy a plan for $100 or less in monthly premiums after tax credits. In addition, about 70 percent of the returning marketplace consumers will be able to buy a plan next year for $75 or less in monthly premiums after tax credits.

Copyright 2015 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7

Phil Galewitz of Kaiser Health News
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