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Consumers' biggest health insurance concern continues to be cost

Health Care and Health Insurance
by Chris Merkel
Consumers' biggest health insurance concern continues to be cost
Consumers' biggest health insurance concern continues to be cost

Rising health insurance costs have been front and center for millions of Americans over the past decade-plus, and are, in fact, what led to the implementation of many aspects of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. But now, years after the ACA's coverage mandate went into effect, some are once again starting to express concerns that the costs for 2017 are spiking to the extent that some people may not be able to reasonably pay for their policies.

In fact, industry experts say price is - and has been - the biggest determining factor in what kind of coverage people seek these days, and that has led some to question whether the ACA's exchanges are actually effective in helping people find low-cost coverage, according to a report from The New York Times. In fact, some of the nation's largest insurers may now be considering how they can realistically scale back their participation in those markets.

Young people shouldn't eschew health insurance due to cost.Young people shouldn't eschew health insurance due to cost.

Changing demographics
What's interesting, though, is that for the 2015 open enrollment period, about half of people who bought coverage through government marketplaces selected one of the two cheapest plans available to them, the report said. However, that was down from about 2 in every 3 enrollees the year before. One of the big issues is that even as more people with serious illnesses or conditions sign up for more expensive coverage, there may not be enough healthy people in the market in the first place to balance out the risk for major insurers.

That may be particularly due to the fact that many young people, who tend to be healthier, are staying on their parents' coverage, getting insurance through work, or simply going without, rather than buying through the exchanges, the report said. That has created serious difficulties for many insurers.

A closer look at millennial participation
One recent examination of state data found that young adults - and men in particular - are largely not participating in the health insurance market, according to the Providence Journal. About 1 in 3 people going without insurance in Rhode Island in 2015 were millennials. In all, the state still had about 45,000 people who didn't carry coverage last year. In Rhode Island, in particular, their issues were likely compounded by the fact that the state has an older population and smaller overall market than most, further driving up the cost of coverage for those living there.

"I think a lot of people in their mid-20s, given the choice, would be happy to have health insurance,'' Karen Pollitz, a senior fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told the newspaper. Affordability remains the main reason why the uninsured remain uninsured."

For these reasons, health insurers may need to do more to reach out to young people, in particular, and help them understand why their coverage costs change from one year to the next. The more that can be done to educate consumers on these issues, the better off consumers of all ages and coverage providers alike are going to be in the future.

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