Obama officials: Health coverage will remain affordable

Some New Jersey insurers are leaving Obamacare. Others have filed for rate hikes. But most consumers won't notice a big increase in premiums for 2017, Obama Administration officials said Wednesday.

The reason: More than 80 percent of consumers received tax credits that will keep up with insurers' premium hikes, they said.

"The message we want to get across is we are convinced the marketplace will continue to bring coverage to millions of Americans next year," Ben Wakana, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said in a conference call with reporters.

The press conference came a day after health insurer Oscar said it was leaving New Jersey's Obamacare market because of what it said was uncertainty.

The marketplace was set up by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare. It was designed to be a place where consumers who weren't covered by their employer, Medicare or Medicaid could shop for plans and apply for tax credits. And it provides health insurance coverage to nearly 250,000 New Jerseyans.

The Obamacare marketplace has gone through turmoil nationwide in recent months. Big insurers Aetna and UnitedHealthcare said they would leave markets because of losses. And other insurers have applied for rate hikes that are well into the double digits.

New Jersey hasn't been immune. Oscar's exit followed the lead of UnitedHealthcare, which said in May it would stop selling its Oxford health plans in the state's Obamacare market. It leaves three insurers for 2017: AmeriHealth New Jersey, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, and Health Republic Insurance.

Still, New Jersey appears to be more stable than other states. Horizon, for example, has nearly 60 percent of the Obamacare market, and it has applied for rate increases on some of its plans of less than 5 percent. Open enrollment begins Nov. 1.

HHS officials said Wednesday that 53 percent of New Jersey's Obamacare consumers still could purchase a plan for less than $75 a month thanks to tax credits, even if final rates rise by double digits. The report, however, didn't address other out-of-pocket costs like deductibles and co-payments.

Michael L. Diamond; 732-643-4038; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

source: http://www.app.com

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