Health premiums expected to increase again in 2017

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — It’s that time of year when employees are pouring over forms and calling their human resources departments trying to figure out what health care plan is the best. The period to sign up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, also begins next month.

So what can consumers expect from either?

ACA premiums are expected to increase an average of about 22 percent nationwide in 2017.

“Close to 82 percent of the people who are in the marketplace receive a tax credit which significantly lowers their premium,” said Cherry Health’s Chief External Relations Officer Michael Reagan.

There are also subsidies available for some in the marketplace.

Private insurance premiums and associated costs have increased steadily as well.

Priority Health, which serves over 746,000 members, says industry premiums are expected to increase an average of 24 percent nationwide and 17 percent in Michigan. The company expects to increase premiums about 13 percent for its members.

But just what impact does the Affordable Care Act have on those rates?

“The young, healthy — we aren’t seeing traction there with them signing up and offsetting the cost we’re seeing with health care coverage for the ACA plans,” said Amy Miller with Priority Health.

But Miller says that’s just part of the problem.

“Also medical cost continue to rise. Pharmacy costs that continue to escalate are impacting our costs,” Miller said.

Critics say the ACA is working as predicted, contending there just aren’t enough people signing up to support the plan which is making costs to private insurers to increase.

Supporters argue the ACA is a long-term solution to rising health care costs. They argue that even though it’s costing everybody more now, those cost aren’t rising as quickly as they did in the past and will eventually level out cost.

“Our position would be there are things about the Affordable Care Act that are wonderful. There are things that have to be improved and changed,” Reagan said. “And one of them is what do we do around cost containment?”