Proposed double-digit increases for ACA health insurance plans

Illinois residents who buy health insurance through the Affordable Care Act exchange are more likely to see prices rise for the next year — in some cases by double the rates.

Ten Illinois insurers that sell plans on the exchange, at health.gov, are proposing average price increases of about 3% to nearly 16% for plans in 2023. Consumers can start shopping November 1 for plans on health. gov for the next year.

The state’s largest health insurance company, Illinois’ Blue Cross and Blue Shield, suggests an average increase of 5.3%. Celtic Insurance Co. suggests. , which sells plans called Ambetter, averaged a 13.7% increase. UnitedHealthcare of Illinois suggests an increase in rate of approximately 16%.

Approximately 230,000 Illinois residents have individual plans for the Affordable Care Act through Blue Cross. About 54,000 people could be affected by the Celtic/Ambetter rate change, and about 5,500 could be affected with UnitedHealthcare, according to documents submitted with insurance offerings.

More than 320,000 Illinois residents have purchased health plans in stock for 2022. Most people in Illinois get health insurance through their jobs or government programs, such as Medicaid and Medicare.

Prices can vary based on a number of factors. This year, for example, a 21-year-old non-smoker who lives in Cook County is paying about $242 a month, before any subsidies, for the lowest-priced silver plan.

Blue Cross, Celtic and UnitedHealthcare blamed the proposed increases for higher medical costs, among other factors, in documents submitted with their proposals at health.gov. The proposals are likely to be finalized in the coming months.

Blue Cross, Celtic and United Healthcare did not respond to requests for comment on Monday.

Stephanie Baker, associate director of health care justice at the Chicago-based Shriver Center for Poverty Law, said Illinois consumers should keep in mind that federal subsidies will once again help lower health insurance costs next year. However, she said any increases are cause for concern.

“(The price of) everything is going up now, so the last thing Illinois families need is for health insurance costs to go up again,” Baker said. “It is critical that both our federal and state representatives do everything they can to rein in these costs.”

The increases come after years of lower prices, and come amid uncertainty about the future of federal subsidies that help consumers offset insurance costs purchased through the Affordable Care Act exchange.

Many people have long received benefits to help lower the monthly costs of insurance purchased through the Affordable Care Act exchange. In Illinois, 85% of people who bought plans through the exchange in 2020 also received subsidies, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Amid the pandemic in 2021, President Joe Biden signed a bill into law that would make these benefits more generous to many people and increase the number of people eligible to receive them.

Now, those boosted subsidies are set to expire at the end of this year and return to their previous standards. After much delay, Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, recently approved legislation aimed at combating climate change that would also extend the boosted tax credits through 2025. However, passage of the legislation is still not guaranteed.

Advocates of the enhanced subsidy fear that if it disappears, many consumers may forgo their health insurance coverage because it will no longer be available to them.

If enhanced benefits are not extended, people who earn more than four times the federal poverty level will no longer qualify for benefits.

This means, for example, that in Illinois, a 40-year-old who buys a Silver Level plan on the exchange and makes $51,521 a year can see a premium increase of about 15%, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation.