ACA marketplace changes mean fewer choices for Ohioans


By Joshua Keeran - jkeeran@civitasmedia.com



Many Ohioans, including Champaign County residents, stand to be impacted by changes coming in 2017 to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Ohio Department of Insurance (ODI) announced Friday during a conference call with the Daily Citizen.

Since the ACA or “Obamacare” was signed into law in 2010, consumers in Ohio have been offered individual health insurance policies through a federally-facilitated exchange known as the Health Insurance Marketplace, found online at HealthCare.gov.

During the 2016 open enrollment period, nearly 250,000 Ohioans signed up for a plan on the exchange. With the 2017 open enrollment period having started as of Nov. 1 (closes Jan. 31, 2017), Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, who serves as director of the ODI, said there is “no doubt” going to be many concerned and frustrated consumers throughout the state due to changes in the exchange that will have a “significant impact” on many counties in Ohio – Champaign County being one of them.

One of the biggest changes Ohioans will notice on the exchange, she said, is the number of available insurance carriers statewide has dropped 35 percent from 17 in 2016 to 11 in 2017.

At the county level, however, over half of Ohio’s 88 counties have seen available carriers cut in half in just a year’s time as the 11 insurance companies are available on a county-by-county basis.

According to the ODI, all 88 counties had at least four insurance carriers offering plans on the federal exchange in 2016. For this coming year, residents living in 20 counties will have only one carrier available to them, while residents in 27 other counties have access to only two carriers.

Champaign County is one of the 27 where only two insurance carriers — Medical Health Insurance Corporation of Ohio (Medical Mutual) and Community Insurance Company (Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield) — are offering coverage. As for surrounding counties, Clark County leads the way with five carriers offering health plans, Miami County has four, Union and Madison counties each have three, Shelby County has two, and Logan County is one of the 20 counties statewide where just one insurance company is offering coverage on the exchange.

Taylor said the decrease in options comes down to the fact that people in poorer health have bought more plans than those in good health, driving up the costs paid out by the insurance providers.

“It’s not possible for them to keep their heads above water,” she said.

Cost to Ohioans

The fact that not enough healthy Ohioans are paying premiums on health plans offered through the federal exchange means insurance carriers will be seeking ways to offset their losses, Taylor said.

“Premiums are going up,” she said. “It’s the nature of the beast in regard to Obamacare.”

Taylor added that residents in counties where only one or two insurance carriers are offering plans won’t necessarily see a huge spike in their premiums simply because of a lack of competition.

“We review any insurance plan sold in the state of Ohio,” she said.

During this review, insurance providers have to justify any premium increases, and to avoid “shadow pricing,” insurance companies have no idea if any other carriers are offering plans in a particular area of the state during the enrollment period, Taylor added.

For Ohioans who receive subsidies to help cover their premiums, Taylor said, any potential increases in premiums for these individuals also mean their subsidies will increase, lowering the overall financial impact on those who receive assistance.

Taylor added that to cover the additional subsidies, taxpayers will bear the burden.

For more information on the federal exchange/marketplace, the ODI advises Ohioans to visit HealthCare.org or www.insurance.ohio.gov.

By Joshua Keeran

jkeeran@civitasmedia.com

Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-652-1331 (ext. 1774) or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.

Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-652-1331 (ext. 1774) or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.