Insurance Premiums Expected to Increase Next Year in Alabama

Alabamians may face higher insurance costs next year despite increased competition in the market, healthcare analysis nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation has said.

Most residents will see between a 1 – 5% increase on the second-lowest silver plan, according to a listing of benchmark premiums across the country.

Kaiser Senior Policy Analyst Cynthia Cox, quoted in the Montgomery Advertiser Dec. 15, indicated that this is part of the averagingout of regional prices; benchmark prices will rise even further in Tennessee and Florida, but fall drastically in Georgia and Mississippi. Rural regions are expected to see the highest increases.

Residents should also be aware that the fines put in place by the Affordable Care Act for not carrying insurance in 2015 will jump to 2% of income (or $325 for each adult and $162.50 for every child without insurance). Exemptions are available for various hardship claims, as well as not being able to get a plan that is less than 8% of household income.

People who signed up through federal or state exchanges last year and do not pick a new plan will have their policies automatically renewed as of Jan. 1. But Cox cautioned that this could mean getting locked into premium increases and losing the ability to comparison shop for better prices.

Health Costs Versus Insurance Costs

Even as debates continue over whether the Affordable Care Act is lowering insurance rates for Americans, there are parallel concerns over health spending.

Despite technology increases and the adoption of electronic health records — which increase efficiency by about 6% a year — the actual costs of healthcare to patients don’t appear to be going down. Overall spending on healthcare is growing at a slower rate than it used to, but this is potentially attributable to multiple factors.

John C. Goodman suggests in a recent Forbes article that the rise of health savings accounts and high-deductible plans can lead people to spend less on healthcare because they’re more aware of what they’re being charged for certain services.

But health professionals have also raised concerns over the high number of people who have insurance but aren’t using it to get care. A survey conducted this fall by The Commonwealth Fund showed that 40% of adults across the country with high-deductible plans reported delaying medical care due to costs.

And this year’s Gallup Poll found that 34% of Americans who have insurance chose not to visit a doctor for even routine care because of financial concerns. That figure is at an all-time high.

“Last year, many hoped that the opening of the government health care exchanges and the resulting increase in the number of Americans with health insurance would enable more people to seek medical treatment,” Gallup said about the survey results. “But, despite a drop in the uninsured rate, a slightly higher percentage of Americans than in previous years report having put off medical treatment, suggesting that the Affordable Care Act has not immediately affected this measure.”