By Jay Hancock, Kaiser Health News
In preliminary but encouraging news for consumers and taxpayers, insurance filings show that average premiums will decline slightly next year in 16 major cities for a benchmark Obamacare plan.
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“If you’re the government, this is great news,” said Larry Levitt, KFF senior vice president. “Competition in the marketplaces is helping drive down the cost of the tax credit” that subsidizes coverage for lower-income consumers.
That’s because the credits are based on the cost of the second-least-expensive silver plan, known as the benchmark plan. That’s the one KFF studied. The lower the benchmark-plan rates, the lower the cost to taxpayers.
For consumers, the picture is also promising — but more complicated.
The main message: Shop around, says Levitt.
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The fact that average premiums in selected cities are declining doesn’t mean your rates will fall. Premiums may vary significantly within states. Premiums for plans with different benefit levels — higher platinum and gold and lower bronze — may behave differently than prices for silver plans. And just because your policy was the least expensive in your area for 2014 doesn’t mean it will stay that way for 2015.
Bottom line: There is increased competition as more insurers enter the marketplaces and tune prices to attract customers. But you may need to switch plans to take advantage of that.
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