Ron Bliss: Competition, increase in customers will drive health care costs down

The skeptics were saying that ObamaCare would drive up health insurance prices because of the added requirements. But now, in the second year of the Affordable Care Act, there is evidence that the cost of health insurance will actually come down.

Already, for 2015, we have seen a decrease in premiums for carriers in different parts of the state. In the Carson City area, Nevada Health Co-Op dropped its prices 30 percent, making it the lowest-priced premiums after being the highest priced in the area last year. The reason? The insurance company wanted to be competitive with other plans in Carson City.

Anthem Blue Cross did the same in rural areas, particularly in Eastern Nevada, in the Elko, Battle Mountain and Winnemucca areas. It went from being way higher than its competitor to lower, in most cases, throughout the rural market.

Competition breeds competition and prices tend to come down.

But the big reason prices will come down is that the pool of clients who have health insurance is expanding rapidly. It was loss of clients who could afford major medical plans that drove the prices up and made necessary the Affordable Care Act.

When the economy went bad in 2008, many lost their health insurance when their companies downsized, but they kept going to the doctor and the hospital and those costs were put off on those who had health insurance. As the client pool shrank, the prices increased to make up for loss of premiums.

With the ACA beginning last year, the number of uninsured in Nevada dropped from 26 percent to less than 19 percent and that appears headed downward again this year. As of Jan. 2, 2015, more than 6.8 million Americans had signed up for a plan under the Affordable Care Act and many others were getting plans on the non-exchange market.

Affordable Health Cares Pros has been selling major medical, non-exchange plans on a regular basis this sign-up season. The competition there is also intense. The highest-priced plans are finding themselves replaced by others whose prices are more competitive.

Insurance companies will be looking for ways to streamline what they offer to be competitive while still being able to make a decent profit.

Don’t be surprised if plans come down again next year. Of those I have written in Carson City this year, I would estimate that some 75 percent of the clients I worked with got their policies for less.

Another aspect of the ACA will also, eventually, lessen the overall cost of health care. Preventive care, like annual physicals, mammograms, and colonoscopies, are now offered at no charge as part of the health care plan. Previously, many were not going to the doctor until it was too late, because of the cost of such procedures, and that drove up costs. When something is caught early, the cost to treat it goes down.

There is only one month left to get a plan during open enrollment that ends on Feb. 15. If you need help, call us at 775-450-6867 or come by our office at 2307 N. Carson Street and let us help you, whether or not you qualify for a subsidy.

In addition to major medical, on and off the Nevada Health Link, we also offer help with Medicare supplements and can also now do Covered California for those who live on the California side in Lake Tahoe or Truckee.

Ron Bliss is a broker with the Affordable Healthcare Pros. He can be reached at 775-450-6769.


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