Pandemic Could Contribute to ACA Exchanges’ Rising Stability with Chart: Average Benchmark Premium Drops 2%; More Insurers Offer Plans on Federal ACA Marketplace

With open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchanges set to begin on Nov. 1 in most states, the COVID-19 pandemic — as is the case with nearly everything in 2020 — is expected to play a role. Health insurers had to decide when setting 2021 premiums whether to factor in a “COVID load,” while rising unemployment driven by the pandemic has the potential to boost sign-ups after two years of flat enrollment totals. Meanwhile, new federal data suggests that the individual insurance market has not only stabilized but is becoming more attractive to consumers.

A report released by the Trump administration on Oct. 19, which analyzed rates in the 36 states that use HealthCare.gov, found that the average premium paid by a 27-year-old for the second-lowest-cost silver plan will decline 2% for 2021, and 22 more plan issuers will offer coverage (see infographic, p. 6). That will mark three straight years of both declining average benchmark plan premiums and increasing issuer participation, CMS noted.

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Leslie Small

Leslie Small

Leslie has been working in journalism since 2009 and reporting on the health care industry since 2014. She has covered the many ups and downs of the Affordable Care Act exchanges, the failed health insurer mega-mergers, and hundreds of other storylines spanning subjects such as Medicaid managed care, Medicare Advantage, employer-sponsored insurance, and prescription drug coverage. As the managing editor of Health Plan Weekly and Radar on Drug Benefits, she writes and edits for both publications while overseeing a small team of reporters who also focus on the managed care sector. Before joining AIS Health, she was a senior editor for the e-newsletter Fierce Health Payer, and she started her career as a copy editor at multiple local newspapers. She graduated with a dual degree in journalism and political science from Penn State University.

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