Erik Furness meets with Antoinette Kraus with the Pennsylvania Health Access Network to begin the process of signing up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act, Monday, March 31, 2014, at Project HOME's St. Elizabeths Community and Wellness Center in Philadelphia.
Brett Sholtis is WITF’s Transforming Health reporter, covering health policy and community health issues that affect Pennsylvanians. Brett strives to share personal stories that have a tie to broad issues and emerging trends. He seeks to give voice to diverse viewpoints, including those of people living with mental illness, disability and those living in poverty. He plays a key role in WITF’s mental health series, Through the Cracks, which reports on problem areas in mental health services and efforts to reduce stigma around those living with behavioral disorders. Previously, Brett was a business reporter at the York Daily Record, where his work included award-winning examinations of the nuclear power industry and food safety. He is a University of Pittsburgh graduate and a Pennsylvania Army National Guard veteran.
After years of double-digit premium hikes the market has stabilized, with a 4.9 percent overall increase this year, said state Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman.
“For the most part they should expect really similar offerings, really similar prices to last year,” Altman said.
People who earn about $48,000 or less per year qualify for subsidies that help to offset monthly premiums.
Those who earn more than that still can face painful costs. “Definitely that top end of the subsidy level into when you’re not eligible for a subsidy is what public policy folks would call a cliff,” she said.
Pennsylvania is working to help those people, Altman said. Beginning in 2021, the state is taking control of the exchange in order to cut overhead costs and take advantage of a waiver that should lower premiums.
Until then, people can look at Affordable Care Act-compliant plans on the Insurance Department’s Consumer Checkbook, which also lists premiums, deductibles and ratings from people who have used those plans.
Altman warned people to be wary of short-term, limited duration plans that have flooded the market since the Trump administration loosened rules on them. Those plans do not have to follow the rules of the ACA and often don’t cover basic services.
ACA enrollment is down from last year, and Altman has voiced concerns that some people are going without insurance now that president Donald Trump ended the requirement for people to have insurance or face a tax penalty.
Altman also cautioned consumers to be wary of short-term limited duration insurance plans, which have been heavily advertised in some regions following the Trump administration loosening rules on those insurers.
“Unfortunately, what we see in cases where individuals have chosen to forego insurance is they forego important things like primary care and preventative services.”