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NPR Health

Obamacare Rates Will Be Approximately 22 Percent Higher For 2017 Policies

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

New health insurance rates for next year have just been released, and they're going to be on average 22 percent higher than this year's prices. NPR's Alison Kodjak reports how people react to the higher rates could be a big factor in whether the Affordable Care Act is a success or a failure.

ALISON KODJAK, BYLINE: The Obama administration is working hard to make the argument that consumers shouldn't be scared off by the price increases. Kevin Griffis is a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services.

KEVIN GRIFFIS: For the vast, vast majority of marketplace consumers, the headline rates are simply not what they pay.

KODJAK: Griffis says that government subsidies that help offset the cost of insurance to consumers will increase as premiums rise.

GRIFFIS: The law was designed to ensure that people who are particularly price conscious, who are moderate-income folks, are protected when there are price increases, and that's what we think is going to happen this year.

KODJAK: Cynthia Cox says convincing consumers of that is crucial to the future of the law. She's a health policy analyst at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

CYNTHIA COX: If people respond to these premium changes by dropping their coverage, we may see more insurers exiting the market, and premiums could go up even more.

KODJAK: Several insurance companies pulled out of Obamacare for 2017 because they said they were losing money on those health plans.

COX: This is going to be a critical year for the Affordable Care Act. And how consumers respond to these changes in premiums and insurer participation could determine whether this is just a one-time market correction or whether it's a longer term problem.

KODJAK: That's because the survival of the exchanges and the law itself requires there to be insurers that can sell policies at a profit and people willing to buy them for that price. Alison Kodjak, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.