Falling Health Insurance Prices in the District
Falling Health Insurance Prices in the District

Washington—Health Insurance prices are dropping in the District of Columbia. The District Department of Insurance, Securities and Insurance (DIS) announced this week that Kaiser Permanente, one of four insurers on the DC Health Benefit Exchange, has lowered the health insurance rates that it proposes to offer customers through DC Health link by 4.4 percent for small business employees and half a percent for individuals. 

Insurers have begun to compete on DC Health Link (DHL) public online market place where consumers will be able compare health insurance plans and premiums. The exchange is scheduled to open on Oct. 1. 

“These lower rates are more incontrovertible proof DC Health Link is already bringing competition to the insurance market,” said William P. White, commissioner of the Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking in a press release. “Kudos to the companies and the way they have adjusted quickly and adroitly to this new market.”

Two of the other companies on the DHL have also cut their rates. United Health Care previously reduced its proposed insurance rates by more than 10 percent and then another 5 percent, while Aetna reduced its rates by more than five percent according to DIS. The fourth insurer Care First has yet to announce insurance rate reductions for its plans on the DHL. 

According to Commissioner White, DHL plans to offer over 300 insurance products to health insurance consumers in the District. 

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as ObamaCare, sets insurance premiums in four tiers: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. The Bronze and Silver plans are more affordable but lower quality while the Gold and Platinum plans are high-end, more expensive with better coverage. Note that some lower income households can apply for tax credits that can lower their insurance premiums considerably. All plans in the exchanges must provide minimum essential coverage that includes emergency service, hospitalization, maternity and newborn care, prescription drugs, pediatric services, including oral and vision care, and more.

In other U.S. markets in 11 states, the projected 2014 insurance premiums for the lowest cost plan in the second tier ‘Silver’ plans is on average 18 percent less expensive than Congressional Budget Office estimates for comparable plan, according to a report brief released by Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE). 

Further, ASPE estimated from available data in six states of small employers for the lowest cost silver plan in 2014 to be on average 18 percent less expensive than the average premium that small employers would have been paying had there been no ACA. 

The ASPE concedes that the 11 states may turn out not to be representative of the 50 states.

Analysts with the HHS use these figures and other insurance premium data collected to come to a preliminary conclusion that ObamaCare has succeeded in increasing competition in the markets for individual and small group insurance, leading to higher quality, more affordable products.

To navigate the numerous options on the DC Health Link exchange consumers may elect to consult a health insurance broker. 

The National Association of Health Underwriters (NAHU) recently announced a partnership with the DC Health Benefit Exchange Authority to offer free training to brokers that want to help consumers and businesses purchase insurance through the DC Health Link. 

“This new DC Health Benefits Exchange training class is a unique and necessary way for licensed agents and brokers to receive an overview of the regulations in ACA [Affordable Care Act] and how they will specifically apply in the District of Columbia’s Exchange, as well as keep up with further regulations as they are issued,” said NAHU CEO Janet Trautwein in a press release.

Brokers are required to have training prior to assisting consumers buy insurance through the DC Health Link according to NAHU.

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