Few Exchange Options Could Lead to Insurance Rate Increases, Experts Say

A lack of competition in some of the new health insurance marketplaces under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act could lead to future rate increases that make plans unaffordable for the average consumer, insurance experts have told USA TODAY.

The country needs multiple carriers competing in all states to hold prices down, according to Bryce Williams, managing director of Towers Watson Exchange Solutions.

Most states have four or more health insurers offering coverage through their exchanges, according to an analysis conducted by healthcare business advisory company Avalere Health. However, 16 states have one to three insurers participating in their individual exchanges. For example, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield is the only option for West Virginia health insurance consumers shopping for coverage through the state's individual exchange.

States with just a few options lose the cost-cutting advantage of health insurers competing against each other, according to USA TODAY. Some major insurance companies have opted out of participating in the exchanges in states where they already operate. For example, Aetna has withdrawn from various exchanges such as those in New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Maryland, Connecticut and Georgia.

However, the number of health insurers participating in the exchanges may grow depending on the experiences of the companies taking part next year, according to the report. Aetna has indicated its exchange strategy for 2015 is still up in the air.

More Articles on Health Insurance Exchanges:
HHS: Florida Exchange Shows Significant Choices, Lower-Than-Expected Premiums
10 Ways Hospitals Can Tackle Health Insurance Exchanges
HHS: Average Health Insurance Exchange Premium 16% Lower Than Expected 

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