Under Affordable Care Act, 25 Percent Increase in Health Insurers Is Predicted

 Consumers in much of the country will have a broader selection of health insurance plans next year, the Obama administration said Tuesday, as it predicted an increase of about 25 percent in the number of insurers that are expected to compete in federal and state marketplaces.

More competition will help hold down premiums, federal health officials said. The administration released preliminary data on insurers that have indicated they want to participate next year in the insurance exchanges, where the federal government subsidizes premiums for millions of people.

So far, it said, the number of insurers, also known as issuers, is up to 315 next year, from 252 this year. For the 36 states served by the federal marketplace, it said, the number is up almost 30 percent, to 248 next year, from 191 this year.

Fourteen states ran their own exchanges, and half have reported the number of insurers expected in 2015. The number in these states and the District of Columbia is expected to increase by about 10 percent, to 67, from 61, the administration said. A three-month open-enrollment period begins Nov. 15.

Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the secretary of health and human services,disclosed the numbers of insurers in a speech at the Brookings Institution, where she said the data showed that “the Affordable Care Act is working.”

“During the last open enrollment,” she said, “consumers could choose from an average of nearly 50 plans. Today, we’re able to announce that in 2015 there will be a 25 percent increase in the total number of issuers selling health insurance plans in the marketplace.”

The numbers are generally consistent with reports by some insurers, which have said they are moving into additional states because they see the government-subsidized market as a business opportunity.

However, the numbers came with several qualifications.

Many states have more than one insurance market or rating area. An insurer is counted as participating in a state if it is in just one local market. Consumers in an urban area may have additional choices next year, but that does not guarantee the same options for people in rural areas who had more limited choices this year. The administration did not disclose the number of plans in each rating area in a state.

Moreover, administration officials said, if an insurer offers its products on the exchanges of three states, that is counted as three insurers.

The numbers, through Sept. 4, do not reflect a decision last week by PreferredOne, the largest provider of coverage on Minnesota’s insurance exchange, to pull out of the state’s online marketplace.

Federal officials said they were pleased to see increases in states with few options this year. In New Hampshire and West Virginia, the federal exchange had just one private insurer this year, officials said. The number is expected to increase to five in New Hampshire and two in West Virginia.

Likewise, officials said, in Alabama, Maine, Mississippi and North Carolina, the number of insurers will rise to three in 2015, from two this year. In Alaska and Wyoming, the number will remain at two.

In Arkansas and Montana, officials said, the number of insurers on the federal exchange will rise to four, from three this year. The number will be unchanged at three in Delaware, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Among the states showing substantial increases were Indiana, where the number of insurers is rising to nine, from four, and Missouri, where the number is doubling, to eight, officials said.

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