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Nearly half Kentucky counties had just one insurance carrier in marketplace

LOUISVILLE (March 7, 2017) — Kentuckians in 59 counties who were looking for coverage through the health insurance marketplace during the recent open enrollment period could choose plans from just one company, according to a report released by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

Only two companies offered plans in another 52 counties, leaving just nine of the state’s 120 counties with three companies’ plans from which to choose.

The Affordable Care Act requires everyone to be covered by health insurance (public or private); those who don’t get coverage through an employer, under their parents’ plan, or through a public program such as Medicare, Medicaid or a military plan can purchase private health insurance through a health insurance marketplace, such as Healthcare.gov. Consumers who buy plans on the marketplace may be eligible for tax credits to reduce their monthly premium payment amounts. The open enrollment period for 2017 coverage closed Jan. 31.

Some neighboring states had as many as 11 carriers offering plans; West Virginia had just two.

“One of the concerns about the uncertainty surrounding the Affordable Care Act is that the number of insurers offering plans is dwindling in many markets, and that’s exactly what happened in Kentucky,” said Ben Chandler, President and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. “Kentuckians living in more than 90 percent of counties in the Commonwealth had just one or two carrier choices; half of Kentucky counties had only one carrier option. And the choices were most limited in the lower-income, less-healthy areas of the Commonwealth.

Fewer carriers leads to higher premiums, less competition to exceed minimum coverage requirements, and higher costs to taxpayers for tax credits to buy those premiums down. Another serious concern is what could happen if there are no insurers willing to provide coverage in some areas, so residents of those areas cannot get the tax credits, making health insurance much more expensive for them. That would move Kentucky backward by once again increasing the number of people who cannot afford insurance, so they rely on the emergency room or just delay or skip essential health care.”

The monthly premiums for plans offered through Kentucky’s marketplace this year, and the corresponding premium tax credits available to moderate-income Kentuckians to make that coverage more affordable, are lower than both the U.S. average and five of eight neighboring states, the report shows. For 2017 coverage, the second-lowest priced silver-level plan for a family of four and an income of $60,000 would cost that family $405 per month; the premium for that plan is $939, and the tax credit is $534. The U.S. average premium for that plan is $1,090, with a $686 tax credit.

A copy of the 7th quarterly snapshot from the Study of the Impact of the ACA Imple­menta­tion in Kentucky is available here. Previous snapshots and other special reports from the study are available here.