Johnson County residents looking to buy health insurance on ACA market facing premium increases of 50 percent or more in many cases

Local healthcare institutions like the University of Kansas Health Care System aren't included in networks available to Johnson County residents on this year's ACA plans.
Local healthcare institutions like the University of Kansas Health Care System aren’t included in networks available to Johnson County residents on this year’s ACA plans.

The instability in the Affordable Care Act health insurance marketplace will hit Johnson County consumers hard in their pocketbooks for 2018.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City pulled out of the exchange for 2018, leaving Johnson County residents with two providers who had not offered plans in the area before: Medica and Centene.

Under changes instituted by the Trump administration, marketplace participants only revealed their 2018 plans a week ahead of Wednesday’s open enrollment period kick off, giving health care advocates and navigators less time to examine what’s available. Many customers who’ve been on the marketplace website to see their options for next year have been shocked by the steep premium increases. What’s more, many of the plans available this year offer starkly limited networks and much higher deductibles that had been available for 2017. Medica plans for 2018 will include only St. Luke’s Health System providers, meaning residents who use doctors through Shawnee Mission Medical Center or the University of Kansas Health System won’t have access to their usual providers.

“It’s pretty bad,” said Molly Moffett, Program Manager of Enroll Wyandotte, which works to get Wyandotte County residents covered via the ACA marketplace. “People want insurance, there just aren’t any good plans.”

Moffett noted that for families who qualify for financial assistance with an insurance plans, the premium increases this year are fairly manageable. But for those who earn enough that they don’t qualify for subsidies, Moffett said premium increases will likely be between 40 and 60 percent. The cheapest plans available this year also carry extremely high deductibles.

“The majority of our clients are seeing the same thing,” she said. “One gal wasn’t even sure she was going to get insurance this year because of the prices and the deductibles.”

Of course, Johnson County residents seeking health insurance on the marketplace aren’t the only ones who face sticker shock. Shawnee Mission School District employees this year are paying between $490 and $737 a month for the employee alone, and between $1,485 and $2,230 a month to cover a family. Some teachers look to plans outside the district offerings to find more affordable options.

The open enrollment period for plans through the ACA exchange ends Dec. 15 for new enrollees. But people who had a plan with Blue Cross last year that don’t have access to it anymore qualify for an extended enrollment period that ends Feb. 28, 2018.