Jan. 31 may be the last day anyone can ever sign up for the Affordable Care Act. Americans who don't have other insurance and haven't done so have little time left. Although the Trump Administration canceled the last round of ads encouraging people to sign up (states, such as New York and Oregon, are running their own ads), the doors are still open. But the deadline is fast approaching. 

What you get may cost more than last year. Health insurance premiums under the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, will rise an average of 22% for the benchmark silver plan in 2017. 

That plan – used as a benchmark for federal subsidies – will cost an average of $296 per month for a 27-year-old, representing a 22% price increase over premiums paid in 2016. (For background on all the plans, see Choose Among Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum Health Plans.)

The price rises haven't kept people from enrolling this year, however. The push to make the original deadline for coverage starting Jan. 1, 2017, was so great that Healthcare.gov extended the midnight deadline for Jan. 1 coverage four days to Dec. 19. Nearly a million consumers unable to get in had left contact information to hold their place in the enrollment line, according to  Healthcare.gov CEO Kevin Counihan. About 700,000 people signed up just on Monday and Tuesday before the deadline. Final deadline to enroll for 2017 is still Jan. 31, 2017. 

Most People Not Affected

Most people enrolled in the Affordable Care Act, however, will not face a 22% price hike (or any price hike for that matter) if they comparison-shop on their exchange once open enrollment begins Nov. 1. For starters, more than 80% get subsidies to help pay their premiums. These lower their premiums to less than 10% of their incomes.

According to federal officials, 77% of consumers will be able to find a plan for $100 per month or less after subsidies. 

Changes Vary Widely

A look at the chart below reveals the fact that actual changes in monthly silver ACA premiums range from a low of -14% to a high of 145%. The 145% increase is for Arizona., where the price for an unsubsidized silver level plan will jump from $207 to $507.

Meanwhile, in Rhode Island, consumers will actually see a decrease of 14% in their monthly premiums for Obamacare. 

 

Behind the Increases

Reasons why rates are rising for 2017 range from the impact of insurers leaving the marketplace to miscalculations by insurers about the actual cost of insuring enrollees, to the rising cost of healthcare in general. 

Thanks to the rising cost of new treatments and medicines and the fact Obamacare makes it possible for more people than ever who are ill to get medical care, premiums would likely increase even if the first two factors were not there.

Best to Shop Around

Consumers are urged to do the one thing that always matters when prices go up – shop around. According to the McKinsey Center for U.S. Health System Reform more than half of those enrolled in the ACA last year will need to switch to a new plan. Those who want to keep their current plan stand a much greater chance of a large premium increase.

As noted above, open enrollment began Nov. 1 and runs to Jan. 31, 2017. Plans for 2017, along with prices, can be previewed now at HealthCare.gov

 

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