Arizona premiums likely to decrease in 2019

Arizona’s health insurance premium rates are expected to decrease after years of double- and triple-digit increases, making coverage plans more affordable.

Consulting firm Avalere Health “crunched available state data and found that [Affordable Care Act] health insurance marketplaces seem to be stabilizing after two years of sharp premium hikes.”

Arizona has seen premium increases since 2017 when the state saw a 116 percent increase. However, Arizona will be seeing a 4.2 percent decrease, one of only 12 states that will be seeing a decrease next year.

According to Chris Sloan, director at Avalere, “Arizona has sort of experienced the highs and the very lows of the ACA market since 2014…it really is pretty astounding. It’s a pretty big change in premiums, especially when you compare it to 2017.”

For Arizonans who do not receive subsidies and are buying insurance this means they could pay less in 2019. In fact, the company expects the average premium to drop from roughly $630 a month to $604.  

Sloan said that plans over shot in 2018 to compensate for the believed political effects. “It looks like in many cases they priced too high,” he said. “The rates coming down in 2019 is plans correcting for that fact.”

Lower premiums are not the only benefit of a more stable health care market.

“With market stability often times comes more choices, [and] more competition generally leads to lower prices but in the same sense having sort of stable prices makes it more likely for health plans to want to participate.” Sloan said. “There are going to be more options in Arizona to pick from. That obviously is a benefit for patients, or consumers, who want to find a plan that is best tailored to their needs.”

Arizona and 18 other states will be seeing new insurers enter or current ones expand. Sloan believes that while new insurers are popping up, this trend is not necessarily a large-scale entrance of insurance companies.

“[It’s] more that we have sort of stopped seeing the large scale exits out of this market,” Sloan said. “The plans that are doing well are expanding and we don’t really see a lot of plans exiting the market like we have in prior years.”

However, even with the modest increases and decreases in 2019, there are still problems with affordability.

Low increases or, in the case of Arizona, slight decreases in premiums year over year doesn’t change the fact that it’s very expensive and for some people out of reach, particularly those who don’t qualify for subsidies,” Sloan said.    

It’s still too early to determine whether the turnaround is permanent or will be fleeting because according to Sloan, “there’s some structural issues with the market and one stable year does not change that.”

Open enrollment for 2019 coverage through the Affordable Care Act marketplace will be between Nov. 1 and Dec. 15.

Read the Avalere analysis here.

Emily Richardson

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