The Arkansas Insurance Department today released the projected 2015 premiums for the health insurance plans on the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace, the health insurance exchange created by Obamacare. These rates are still pending federal approval, which will come within the next month. We already knew the big picture: premiums in 2015 are falling 2.2 percent as compared to 2014 (by weighted average based on 2014 market share). What we have now are individualized rates so consumers can look at individual plans. The chart above shows, by region, the average rate for the median age in Arkansas (38) for Silver (medium) plans for non-smokers. Note this does not include subsidies available via Obamacare to reduce the cost for lower-to-moderate-income consumers. Subsidies are available for people who make less than 400 percent of the federal poverty level (around $47,000 for an individual or around $95,000 for a family of four; around 90 percent of Marketplace consumers in 2014 received subsidies). See here to explore all of the plans and their prices; see here for a map of the seven rating areas in Arkansas.
About that big picture: it’s become axiomatic in health care that insurance premiums go up significantly year after year, so it’s very good news that premiums are holding steady or falling on the Arkansas Marketplace (the private option, with a population leaning younger and healthier, is likely a big reason why; the private option also benefits from lower-than-expected premiums in terms of the fiscal viability of the program, as premiums are the biggest factor driving private option costs).
Now that individualized rates are available, consumers can window shop, although open enrollment for the Marketplace won’t begin until November 15. Revisions are still possible as we await federal approval, though state officials said any changes would be minor.
Originally AID planned to release rates after the feds approved, but Gov. Mike Beebe asked AID to expedite the process after the Republican congressional delegation comically suggested that the rates hadn’t been released for political reasons, even though we already knew that the news was good. (You might remember that their request came in the form of a humiliatingly fact-challenged letter that revealed that the congressmen relied on national advocacy groups for talking points and badly misunderstood the way that the insurance market is functioning in their home state.)
See above for average rates for Silver (or medium) level plans in different regions of the state. There are also cheaper plans with less coverage (Bronze) and more expensive plans with more coverage (Gold). The private option — which remember, uses Medicaid funds to purchase private health insurance plans on the Marketplace for low-income Arkansans — uses Silver plans. However, the private option this year will only use Silver plans which exclusively cover the ten essential health benefits mandated by Obamacare, with no additional bells and whistles, so the average price for PO-eligible plans might be a bit lower than the average price for a Silver plan.
The Insurance Department produced an interactive site that allows consumers to search for plans and prices based on age, county, and coverage level (Bronze, Silver, or Gold).
I’m actually out of pocket today and just throwing this up quickly; I may have more context or analysis, if needed, next week.
AID press release after the jump:
2015 Projected Qualified Health Plan Individual Premium Rates for Arkansas
LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS (October 3, 2014) – Arkansas Insurance Commissioner Jay Bradford today announced the projected monthly premium rates for the health insurance plans to be offered through the Health Insurance Marketplace in 2015.
“We’re confident that Arkansans will have plenty of high quality health insurance options to choose from at competitive prices,” Bradford said.
“These rates are further proof that the Health Insurance Marketplace continues to work well in Arkansas, providing people with the 10 Essential Health Benefits and guaranteed coverage regardless of health status. And, it’s important to remember you may be eligible for assistance paying your premiums.”
Federal tax credits may reduce what the consumer pays toward the listed rates, depending on the consumer’s household income.
Altogether, rates for all Marketplace consumers in 2015 are projected to drop on average by approximately 2 percent from 2014. Also, in 2015 there will be more competition with five carriers (up from four in 2014). All carriers plan to serve all areas of the state.
The projected 2015 rates released today do not become final until the Marketplace health insurance plans are certified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. We anticipate this certification on or before November 3, 2014 with few, if any, changes to the rates. The rates have been thoroughly reviewed by the insurance carriers, officials at the Arkansas Insurance Department, and the actuarial firm of Lewis & Ellis Inc. of Dallas.
“An average reduction in premiums is a huge success for the state of Arkansas,” said David Dillon, Vice President and Principal at Lewis & Ellis. Across the country, health insurance rates historically have increased by about 8-10 percent a year, he said.
Open enrollment runs from November 15, 2014, to February 15, 2015.
Rates vary by company, type of plan, age, geographical rating area, and in some cases, by smoking status. There are more than 19,000 possible rates for plans offered through the Marketplace in Arkansas.
The health insurance carriers approved by AID to offer Qualified Health Plans through the Marketplace are: Ambetter of Arkansas, Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield, Blue Cross Blue Shield Multi-State, QC Life and Health, and QualChoice Health Insurance.
For projected 2015 rate listings visit:
The link provides a search feature for specific rates as well as an option to download the complete list of all rates.
For a map of the seven rating areas in Arkansas visit: http://insurance.arkansas.gov/RatingMap.pdf
The following chart includes the projected 2015 average Silver level non-tobacco monthly rates for the median age in Arkansas (38). The average rates are listed by each carrier in each rating area and do not include tax credits.