By Josh Adamson |Staff Writer|
The changes in California’s individual health insurance market will impact So-Cal residents and students in 2017.
Premiums for insurance plans sold on Covered California will increase by an average of 13.2 percent next year. San Bernardino and Riverside Counties will have an average premium increase of 10.1 percent.
Students were advised to shop around and consider their options.
“CSUSB students can’t do much about the rate increases [but] aiming for the lowest priced plan and not being afraid of switching plans is one option,” stated Economics Professor, Yasemin Dildar.
The majority of shoppers will be insulated from these increases by federal subsidies that help to finance consumers’ insurance premiums.
Around 90 percent of Inland Empire shoppers have so far received financial assistance to pay for their premiums, according to rate information published by Covered California.
California’s overall 2017 premium increase is lower than the 25 percent increase seen on the federal HealthCare.gov marketplace. Consumers in more than 30 other states use HealthCare.gov to shop for individual coverage.
Financial considerations were clearly on students’ minds.
“As a student, I would take into account what [plan] I can afford based on my monthly income,” stated student Marlen Covarrubias.
Plans’ out-of-pocket costs should be considered as well, according to student Abraham Garcia.
“Students should take into account the type of coverage they want [and] are qualified for,” added Garcia. “They should know what is included and compare different plan networks.”
Both exchanges were created as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, which began its fourth open enrollment period on Nov. 1. Enrollment in health plans will continue until Jan. 31, 2017.
The characteristics of California’s marketplace have facilitated comparatively lower premium increases next year.
“California’s health insurance market has more options than most other states,” stated Dildar. “That leads to competition among providers, which keeps prices down. California is also a very large state, which…ensures [there is] a large pool of healthy people who are less costly to insure.”
Markets with fewer insurers are also free to raise premiums because of reduced competition, added Dildar.
All IE shoppers in 2017 will have at least two insurance companies to select from.
Some consumers may select from as many as five carriers, according to Covered California.
Participating insurers include Anthem, Blue Shield, Kaiser Permanente, Health Net, and Molina Healthcare.
Dildar noted that specific additions may be made to the law to improve its efficiency.
“Many economists argue there should be one federally funded option in each state, a ‘public option,’ that other companies would have to compete with,” stated Dildar. “Right now we have Medicaid, but households must qualify for that based on their income levels.”
California has expanded Medicaid eligibility in accordance with the ACA.
The state-federal insurance program covers individuals with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. It is known as Medi-Cal in California.
Other proposals may be important to students as well.
“[Students] should also consider alternatives that are being debated these days, such as a Medicare-for-all, single payer program which would dramatically cut health care costs for Americans,” added Dildar. “They can think about this issue on election day.”
Health insurance in California will continue to evolve in the years to come.