Feds insist affordable Obamacare options available in Michigan - WNEM TV 5

Feds insist affordable Obamacare options available in Michigan

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With the November 1 start of Open Enrollment just days away, the Federal government says Michigan consumers can now visit HealthCare.gov to check out their options for 2017 coverage. A new report, released today by the Feds, shows that 65 percent of Michigan Marketplace consumers will be able to find a plan with a premium of less than $75 per month, and 73 percent will be able to find plans with premiums below $100. The report also insists that Michigan consumers who come back to shop will have options, with an average of 62 plans to choose from.

“Thanks to financial assistance, the large majority of current Marketplace consumers in Michigan will be able to find plans with premiums between $50 and $100 per month,” said HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell in a press release. “Many uninsured Michiganians could also qualify for financial assistance, as could 62,000 Michiganians currently paying full price for off-Marketplace coverage. I encourage anyone who might need 2017 coverage to visit HealthCare.gov and check out this year’s options for themselves.”

HHS insists the number of Americans without health insurance is at its lowest level in history, and the share of Michigan residents without health insurance stands at 6.1 percent, down 51 percent since 2010, according to the government report. 

HHS also says 83 percent of current Michigan Marketplace consumers are eligible for tax credits that bring down the cost of coverage, and, nationwide, about 85 percent of Marketplace-eligible uninsured Americans also qualify for tax credits. In addition, an estimated 62,000 Michiganians currently paying full price for health insurance in the off-Marketplace individual market could be eligible for tax credits if they purchase 2017 coverage through the Marketplace.

Tax credits increase dollar for dollar with the cost of a consumer’s benchmark plan, and so they protect the large majority of consumers from rate increases. For example, a 27-year-old in Detroit, Michigan with income of $25,000 paid $143 per month to purchase the benchmark (second-lowest cost silver) plan in 2016. For 2017, a 27-year-old with income of $25,000 will pay almost the exact same amount ($142 per month), because, while benchmark premiums have increased, tax credits will increase to compensate.

Shopping also helps keep coverage affordable for consumers. If every returning consumer in Michigan selected the lowest-cost plan available within their current metal level, average premiums would decrease by $50 per month, or 30 percent, from 2016 to 2017. In fact, many consumers do not choose the lowest-cost plan available, because they are willing to pay more for a wider network or other plan features. But this calculation confirms that affordable options for 2017 coverage are available to consumers who shop around to find a better deal.

This year, Marketplace consumers in Michigan will be able to choose from an average of 62 health insurance plans. Ten issuers will be offering coverage in Michigan, and some consumers will have the option of purchasing Marketplace coverage from Humana for the first time, since it is expanding its service area. Michiganians will be able to choose among plans with different combinations of premiums, out-of-pocket costs, networks of hospitals and physicians, and prescription drug coverage options. For people with employer-sponsored health insurance, plan choice is typically narrower: for example, in 2015, 30 percent of people with employer coverage not only had just one issuer, but also just one plan option.

In addition to helping consumers save money, HHS says shopping also lets them find plans with the features that matter most to them and their families. HealthCare.gov offers a number of tools to help:

  • Out-of-pocket costs calculator. Out-of-pocket costs are important to consider in choosing a health plan, but headline deductibles overstate out-of-pocket costs for most consumers. Nationally, most Marketplace consumers qualify for financial assistance that lowers their deductibles; financial assistance helped reduce the median Marketplace deductible to $850 for 2016. In addition, Marketplace plans cover preventative services and an average of seven additional services with little or no cost sharing before consumers meet their deductibles, often including primary care visits, prescription drugs, and even specialist visits.

    HealthCare.gov’s out-of-pocket calculator helps consumers put together the full picture of their health care costs, including premiums, deductibles, copays, and coinsurance, taking into account plan features, financial assistance, and individual health care needs.

  • Physician and drug search tools. Nearly four-fifths of Marketplace consumers report that they are satisfied with the choice of physicians and hospitals in their network. To help consumers continue to find plans that cover the providers important to them, HealthCare.gov includes a physician look-up tool letting consumers search for a preferred provider or facility. Consumers can also search for whether a plan covers particular prescription drugs.

HHS officials say HealthCare.gov will be taking steps to make healthcare shopping more "intuitive and streamlined" as they said in the press release. The new Plan Compare 2.0 will offer a simpler, step-by-step sign-up process that integrates improved physician and drug look-up tools directly into the shopping experience and simplifies and improves shopping for consumers using mobile devices.

In 2016, the large majority of current Marketplace consumers were pleased with their coverage, reporting similar levels of satisfaction as people with employer plans. Improved search tools will help Marketplace consumers continue to find plans that meet their and their families’ needs. HHS

“Michigan has made historic progress under the ACA, and now we want to build on that progress to further improve affordability, access, and quality,” said Secretary Burwell. The President has taken a number of steps to improve the ACA, and thinks we can do even more – such as expanding Medicaid in states that have declined to do so, providing more tax credits for middle-income families and young adults to further improve affordability, adding a public plan fallback to give people more options in places where there still are just not enough insurers to compete, and supporting innovation by states to achieve the same goals of the ACA. But this Open Enrollment, we are focused on getting as many uninsured people covered as we can. 

Open Enrollment starts November 1 and ends on January 31, 2017.

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