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Will Every County Have Coverage in 2018? Yes – But Options Will Be Limited

As open enrollment for Obamacare in 2018 approaches, insurance companies are still examining whether to offer coverage in the health insurance marketplace. Some companies may decide to stay, and some may decide to exit, but data released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services shows every county in the U.S., barring any last-minute exits, will have at least one insurance company to choose from.

Anthem, one of the nation’s largest insurance carriers, recently announced it would continue to offer coverage in 63 counties in Virginia. The company also said it will remain in cities and counties that were at risk of not having any Obamacare coverage options in 2018. By offering coverage in so-called “bare counties,” Anthem will possess a monopoly in regions with only one coverage choice.

Limited insurance company participation, especially in counties with only one option, could cause premiums to skyrocket. Additionally, the uncertainty over the individual mandate and cost-sharing subsidies has many insurance companies pricing in premium increases for 2018.

For example, Michigan expects to see a premium increase of close to 28 percent in 2018. The huge spike in monthly premiums is due in large part to ambiguity over whether the Trump administration will continue cost-sharing payments to help subsidize insurance for low-income Americans.

In Tennessee, premiums will increase by 42 percent on marketplace plans offered by Cigna. In addition, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee received approval by the state’s insurance commissioner to raise premiums by 21 percent. The state also cited uncertainty over what the federal government plans to do about cost-sharing payments and the individual mandate. Most low-income Americans receive subsidies to help offset any increases in monthly premiums.

A last-ditch effort by the GOP this week to repeal and replace Obamacare did not succeed. Reports indicate that the bill sponsored by Republican Senators Lindsay Graham and Bill Cassidy did not have enough votes to move on to the floor of the House of Representatives. However, any legislation that repeals and replaces Obamacare would take some time to implement even if Republicans had enough support. Most analysts say that a transition period would be in effect until there is any full repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

Open enrollment for health insurance coverage required by the Affordable Care Act starts on November 1, 2017 and ends on December 15, 2017. In the past, participants had until January 31 of the following year to apply for coverage through the healthcare exchanges. The shorter time frame means that customers have just six weeks to find, choose and enroll in coverage for next year.

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