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Obamacare Rates See Smallest Increase In History, Including In The Mountain West

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Thursday, November 1 is the first day of the six-week open enrollment for health insurance plans on the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. States in the Mountain West are seeing minor rate hikes — if any — this year.

Last year Obamacare rates spiked in most states. In Utah, they went up 39 percent. In Idaho, it was 27 percent. But 2019 is looking better. In fact, it’s the first year since the program started in 2014 that average rates have gone down across the country.

Vincent Plymell is a spokesperson with the Colorado Department of Insurance. Last year rates in Colorado increased by nearly a third, but he said the rates he's seeing are a significant improvement.

“The stability is there. The carriers now are, I think, a little bit more familiar with how to price this market,” Plymell said. 

Rates are going up by about five percent next year in Colorado, but Plymell said when you factor in the financial subsidies, the majority of Coloradans on Obamacare plans could pay 25 percent less than in 2018. 

In Utah, average rates will be about the same from last year.

Idaho’s average ratesare also going up five percent on average. But according to Dean Cameron, Director of the Idaho Department of Insurance, residents there aren’t seeing as many benefits.

“Many of our citizens in Idaho have been forced out of coverage because the price is too much and they don’t qualify for a subsidy,” Cameron said.

He said he believes people will continue leaving the Obamacare marketplace, further weakening it.

2019 will be the first year without the individual mandate that requires people to buy insurance or else pay a penalty fee. Representatives from insurance departments in Idaho, Colorado and Utah said they don’t expect this to have much of an impact on rates going forward.

Copyright 2021 KUER 90.1. To see more, visit KUER 90.1.

Erik Neumann is a radio producer and writer. A native of the Pacific Northwest, his work has appeared on public radio stations and in magazines along the West Coast. He received his Bachelor's Degree in geography from the University of Washington and a Master's in Journalism from UC Berkeley. Besides working at KUER, he enjoys being outside in just about every way possible.

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