NEW YORK (MainStreet) - With open enrollment for health care insurance only weeks away (the official 2016 enrollment launch date is November 1, 2015, the first day you can enroll in an Obamacare marketplace health plan), it's time to start thinking about health insurance needs - and, inevitably, costs. Nationally, health insurance costs are a mixed bag.
Some states, like Illinois, North Carolina, and Tennessee are expected to see premiums rise between 20% and 40%. Others, like New York and Massachusetts, are expected to see health insurance rates rise under 5%.
The reason health insurance premiums vary so widely on a state-to-state basis is primarily due to the relative infancy of the Affordable Care Act. Two years in, insurers are just now starting to get a firm grip on costs, as they have more data on consumer health care spending.
According to the Society of Actuaries, insurers pegged their plan costs too low in 2014 and 2015 and feel justified in raising them in 2016. A recent white paper from the American Academy of Actuaries further highlights particular changes in health care costs for 2016: "Major drivers of 2016 premium changes include: the underlying growth in health care costs, the phase down of the transitional reinsurance program and how assumptions regarding the composition of the 2016 risk pool differ from those assumed for 2015."
While the amount health care consumes can expect to pay for health care insurance will vary on a state-to-state basis, what's the overall consensus for health insurance rates across the board in 2016? "Health insurance rates will continue to rise, because as insurance companies get larger via mergers, they will become even more powerful and will be able to dictate cost," says Dr. Elaina George, an Atlanta, Ga.-based head and neck surgeon. "As Blue Cross Blue Cross Blue Shield has said about it's planned merger with Cigna, now they will have leverage to negotiate with physicians. That leverage will not only include further lowering reimbursements to doctors, but will likely lead to higher charges for patients because their choice of insurance companies continue to fall."
In essence, less competition means higher prices.