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Inflation hits health insurance premiums this open enrollment season

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A woman sits at a desk with a keypad, pad of notes, iced coffee and health insurance form.

"It's a daunting process to have to go on to the marketplace," said Cynthia Cox at the Kaiser Family Foundation. But if you have ACA coverage, it may be worth your while. Bongkarn Thanyakij/Getty Images

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It’s open enrollment season. Whether you get health insurance through your employer or buy an Affordable Care Act plan on the marketplace, this is the time of year to sign up. 

Premiums are going up about 4% on average for marketplace plans, though there are big variations by state. 

And, for the most part, it won’t actually matter to most people how much premiums go up because there are significant subsidies that bring the actual cost of ACA coverage way down again for the coming year. That’s because of funding in the Inflation Reduction Act. 

Shopping for health insurance isn’t exactly most people’s idea of a good time.

“It’s a daunting process to have to go on to the marketplace and enter all of your information all over again and look at all the plans,” said Cynthia Cox at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

But it’s worth your while, she said — especially if you’re buying on the exchanges. 

“A lot of people automatically re-enroll into the same plan they were in the previous year, and what you bought last year may no longer be the lowest cost in your area,” Cox said.

The increase in premiums for ACA plans in many places follow a couple of years of flat prices and even decreases. There are a couple of reasons for that, according to Sabrina Corlette at Georgetown’s Center on Health Insurance Reforms.

For one, “inflation is starting to be felt in health insurance premiums,” she said. “Just like inflation is being felt everywhere else.”

People are also going to the doctor more after largely staying away in the early days of the pandemic. And, Corlette said, insurers expect that to continue. 

However, “the vast majority of people are not going to feel the sting of those premium increases,” she said. That’s because, as a result of the Inflation Reduction Act’s passage, Congress extended funding for higher health insurance subsidies that began during the pandemic. The money will be available through 2025.

It’s made ACA insurance much more affordable than it used to be, Corlette added. “Many people will be able to find a plan for $10 a month or less.”

And as subsidies expanded in the last couple of years during the pandemic, “we’ve seen a substantial increase in marketplace enrollment,” said Matthew Fiedler with the USC-Brookings Schaeffer Initiative for Health Policy. “During open enrollment last year, 14.5 million people selected plans on the marketplaces. And that’s up from a little over 11 million people in 2020.”

For 2023, open enrollment in most states runs through Jan. 15.

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