November 2, 2017

Obamacare marketplace enrollment opens with higher costs, fewer choices


Illinoisí Obamacare exchange is open for business. The prices are significantly higher, but there is one area where businesses could find some savings.

Nov. 1 marks the open enrollment period for Illinoisí exchange. Prices on most plans are going to be higher and there likely will be fewer choices of carriers since many have dropped out of offering coverage.

Naomi Lopez-Bauman, Director of Healthcare Policy at the Goldwater Institute says the price hikes, which can be up to 35 percent in some cases, will really hit the participants who donít qualify for government assistance to offset that hike.

"The ones who are really left behind are those who donít get a subsidy," she said. "Itís still the same story. Consumers are left with fewer choices, prices are going up, insurers continue to flee the market, and the narrowing of networks with skimpier plans."

One bright spot is the ability for small businesses to enroll at prices up to 35 percent cheaper than the individual offerings. Castle Group Health President Mark Gurda says itís one of the few things Obamacare has improved.

"If you have employees offer a group benefit plan, with zero requirements for employee participation and zero requirement for employer sharing of cost," he said. "If anything has come out of the Affordable Care Act, it has not been a destruction of group policies, it has been additional incentives."

While the state and others have aggressively pushed for new enrollees, the actual number of those on the exchange is small compared to the people that get subsidized care through the expansion of Medicaid. The stateís exchange hosts about 350,000 people, but Medicaid expansion covered more than 650,000. Medicaid expansion has been criticized for allowing many able-bodied men to overload the Medicaid rolls that were meant to be a safety net for those in dire need of services.

Many of the counties in northern Illinois as well as the counties surrounding St. Louis will only have one option for insurers on the exchange.

In a release, the Illinois Department of Insurance says customers of the exchanges could be directed to private plans since some may be cheaper than the rates offered on the exchange.

Enrollment ends Dec. 15.