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Illinois Obamacare exchange rates to decrease next year for many popular plans

Chicago Tribune

Wednesday, October 10, 2018  |  Article  |  Lisa Schencker

Obamacare, Affordable Care Act

Consumers who buy health insurance on Illinois’ Obamacare exchange for next year will see slightly lower prices, on average, for the most popular plans, after years of dramatic increases.

It’s a dip that comes amid changes that might cause consumers to turn away from the exchange. Starting next year, consumers no longer will face penalties for not buying insurance and they will be able to purchase short-term insurance plans outside the exchange that are often cheaper than exchange plans.

Rates for the lowest-priced silver plans on the exchange will decrease by 4 percent, on average, next year, and rates for the second-lowest-priced silver plans will drop by 3 percent, on average, according to an analysis by the Illinois Department of Insurance. Rates for the lowest-priced gold plans will decrease by an average of 6 percent. The average rate for bronze plans will rise by 6 percent, on average.

However, there are differences between counties.

In Cook County, for example, a 21-year-old nonsmoker could buy a silver plan for as low as $287.57 a month for next year, down from $315.33 a month this year.

In Lake County, the rate for the cheapest silver plan for a 21-year-old nonsmoker is slightly higher for next year — $375.68 a month compared with this year’s $358.46 a month. In DuPage County, the least expensive silver plan will run $330.21 a month, down from $338.97 this year.

Those prices don’t include the tax credits received by most Illinois residents who buy coverage on the exchange.

Returning insurers include Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, Celtic Insurance Co., Cigna and Health Alliance Medical Plans. A fifth insurer, Gundersen Health Plan selling plans as Quartz, also is joining the state’s exchange next year, though it will only offer plans in Stephenson, Ogle, Boone and Winnebago counties.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield will remain the only insurer on the exchange offering a PPO plan, and that option will be offered statewide.

Most Illinois residents get health insurance through employers or government programs such as Medicare or Medicaid. But this year about 335,000 people in Illinois opted for coverage through the Obamacare exchange.

Open enrollment for exchange plans begins Nov. 1.

More to come.

lschencker@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @lschencker