Individual Health Insurance Costs Will Rise Higher Than Expected

Oct 27, 2017

This week insurance companies in Washington announced their 2018 rates for individual health plans. On average, prices are going up 36 percent.

Some experts say it didn't have to be this high.

Of the roughly 330,000 Washingtonians who buy health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, the majority will have to pay more next year. About 70,000 low income people will be protected from the rate increases because they are eligible for federal subsidies.

The state insurance commissioner's office recommends people shop around; 74 health insurance plans will be available on the individual market.

Insurance commissioner spokesperson Steve Valandra says rates are 10 percent higher than they could have been, because the Trump Administration stopped giving subsidies to insurers.

Valandra: "You know actions have consequences, and what the Trump Administration has decided to do is showing up not only in our state but across the country."

Other reasons for the premium hikes include rising medical costs and prescription prices.

Aaron Katz teaches health policy at the University of Washington. He says a possible consequence of higher prices is that healthy people may decide not to enroll.

But Katz says the individual insurance market was more of a mess before the Affordable Care Act.

Katz: "Thirty-six percent increases were expected every year, and in some places insurance increases of 50 or 60 percent in some markets. So this isn't good, this kind of increase isn't good, but things were a lot worse before."

This year's enrollment period runs from November 1 to January 15.