ACA enrollees opt for high-deductible plans on healthcare exchanges

June 19, 2014

When President Barack Obama promised that most healthcare insurance plans available on the federal exchanges would be the price of a cellphone bill, he wasn’t too far off base.

When President Barack Obama promised that most healthcare insurance plans available on the federal exchanges would be the price of a cellphone bill, he wasn’t too far off base.

Silver plans were the most popular option chosen by enrollees in the first round of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) healthcare exchanges, available to the public from October 2013 to March 2014. Those plans averaged $69 per month after federal tax credits, according to a report released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Tax credits for silver plans decreased premiums by 76% on average. Before tax credits, the average premium for silver plans were $346 per month.

Bronze plans, with the highest deductibles, were the second-most popular selection on the exchanges.  After tax credits, the report states that enrollees saved an average of one dollar per month on these plans compared with silver plans. Platinum and gold plans with lower deductibles averaged $220 and $208 per month after tax credits, respectively.

The average cost of a cellphone bill is $132, according to J.D. Power and Associates.

Earlier reports forecasted that enrollees would favor high-deductible plans, which could also have increased enrollees’ financial burden. Practice owners have been encouraged to review payment and collections policies in anticipation of an influx of patients with high-deductible plans.

Comparing plans across all levels, the average cost of monthly premiums averaged $82 a month after tax credits. The report estimates that 69% of people who chose plans through the healthcare exchanges have monthly premiums of $100 or less, and 46% had premiums of $50 or less.

More competition between health plans contributed to lower-priced plans, the report’s authors found. The majority of adults eligible to enroll in ACA plans had up to 11 different insurance companies to choose from.

“Eighty-two percent of people eligible to purchase a qualified health plan live in rating areas with 3 to 11 issuers in the Marketplace; 96% live in rating areas with 2 to 11 issuers in the Marketplace,” the report’s authors said. “Areas with a greater number of issuers also tend to offer a wider range of choices among plan types (e.g. preferred provider organizations, health maintenance organizations, cooperatives) to better meet consumers’ preferences and financial needs.”