Tennessee Health Insurance Subsidies Grow 300 Percent Since Start Of Obamacare | Nashville Public Radio

Tennessee Health Insurance Subsidies Grow 300 Percent Since Start Of Obamacare

Apr 18, 2018

A nonpartisan analysis finds that the federal government is shouldering a much larger share of individual health insurance costs in Tennessee. Subsidies for those who buy their own insurance on the federal marketplace have increased by 309 percent since 2014, according to the Sycamore Institute. Premiums, by comparison, have risen 185 percent over the same period.

The monthly premiums charged by insurance companies have been going up by double digits each year. But Laura Berlind, executive director of Tennessee's Sycamore Institute, says the subsidies are directly tied to those ballooning price tags.

"So it doesn't matter how high the premium goes. The subsidy is going to jump to cover it," Berlind says.

And because of a peculiar way the government calculates its level of assistance based only on silver-level plans (resulting in a practice by insurance companies dubbed "silver loading"), a vast majority of Tennesseans ended up paying substantially less this year — 50 percent on average.

More: From Sticker Shock To Pleasantly Surprised On Tennessee's Health Insurance Marketplace

About 200,000 Tennesseans are getting help paying each month. So on average, that's more than $9,000 that the federal government is covering per person annually.

However, those who don't qualify for any help are feeling even more squeezed. Their average out-of-pocket cost each month went up by nearly a third.

Overall, enrollment has fallen for the last couple of years after peaking in 2016. And it's unclear how ending the individual mandate will affect future years. But Berlind says the market does appear to be leveling out.

"I think we're going to have to wait and see what goes on on the federal policy landscape," Berlind says. "But for the moment, it looks like enrollment is leveling off and markets are stable."