Over the past several months, there has been a lot of understandable confusion around the state of the 2018 health insurance marketplace. Some consumers may expect premiums to rise sharply, others might have no idea, and still, more might not know about all the tax credits that are going to be available to them. This is likely to be an issue nationwide over the next few weeks - and potentially beyond - and it's something insurers and policyholders alike need to keep a close eye on.
For instance, in Colorado, premiums for health insurance coverage purchased through the state's exchange will likely rise 30 percent from what people previously paid for coverage, but thanks to various types of tax credits, those within certain income brackets could actually see their costs drop by as much as 20 percent, according to the Denver Post. While state-run exchanges may have to deal with a lot of misunderstandings and are working to get the word out about how the landscape has changed under President Donald Trump, the new cost savings could be a significant driver of sign-ups once again.
"I'm cautiously optimistic," Kevin Patterson, CEO of Colorado's Connect for Health exchange, told the newspaper. "I feel pretty good about where we are, with all the confusion and back and forth this year."
About 8 percent of residents in the Rocky Mountain State get their coverage on their own, but only about 3.5 percent use Connect for Health, the report said. This year, more than 60 percent of those people on the exchange will receive at least some federal aid.
What's the fallout?
As a result of the confusion about what health insurance can actually cost them, there are many Americans who now say they're more likely to shy away from coverage if they don't have it already, according to Kaiser Health News. This includes many people who retired early or are self-employed, who say the uncertainty they face on a number of fronts make it difficult for them to predict their income or what their benefits would be under the shifting political climate surrounding health care.
"These folks are rightly the most worried and confused right now," Kevin Lucia, a health insurance specialist and research professor at Georgetown University's Health Policy Institute, told Kaiser. "Decisions about which health plan is best for them is more complicated for 2018, and many people feel more uncertain about the future of the law itself."
This uncertainty could lead to many Americans cutting back on coverage (i.e. going with a lower-cost plan that comes with fewer benefits) or simply going without, the report said.
Bridging the gap
With these issues in mind, experts note it may fall on insurers and other interested parties to get the word out about what these changes mean, according to National Public Radio. That includes encouraging people to start shopping for coverage as soon as possible and make sure they understand the ins and outs of whatever policies they may end up choosing, to truly grasp the actual cost of buying coverage and maintaining a positive health care regimen throughout 2018.
Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News told NPR that this issue could be particularly important because the open enrollment period has been dramatically shortened for people in most states, from a few months to just six weeks.
Because of that shortened enrollment period, insurers need to get the word out to current policyholders who bought coverage through the exchanges far sooner than later. At this point, any delay may result in people going without coverage they need for much of 2018.