Hoosiers among few to see lower Obamacare costs

Many Indiana consumers who get their health insurance through the federal health care law can expect to pay less in the coming year, according to estimates from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The cost of health insurance under the President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act is expected to climb across much of the U.S. — in some cases by double digits.

But Indiana is projected to see a 12.6 percent decrease in the cost of a benchmark plan, according to federal estimates released this week. It's just one of four states where costs are expected to decline, the numbers show. Benchmark plans at HealthCare.gov shows a monthly premium range of $383 to $524 before tax credits, which averaged about $319 in Indiana in 2015.

The reason for the decline for the roughly 220,000 Indiana residents who purchase coverage through the ACA is up for debate.

Private insurers selling through the federal health insurance market place are "getting a better feel for how and what they should set their rates at," Kathleen Falk, the DHHS' Midwest regional director, told the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette.

But Mike Cahill, CEO of Physicians Health Plan of Northern Indiana, said the costs are "still a guesstimate" being made by insurance companies still becoming acquainted with a new system.

"There's not enough experience out there to set rates," Cahill told the Journal Gazette.

In many other states, insurers underpriced their plans the last two years and now are raising prices, said Dave Axene of the Society of Actuaries.

"How the public responds to this is really important," Axene said. "If there is any significant shifting around of healthy vs. sick people, that's going to mean more turmoil next year."

Open enrolment for 2016 coverage begins Sunday and continues through Jan. 31. Those who enroll by Dec. 15 will have coverage starting Jan. 1.

While tax credits lower the monthly cost for many, experts suggest looking beyond just premium prices because there are also out-of-pocket costs to consider. Consumers also should make sure their favorite doctors and needed medications are covered by their health plans, Axene said.

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