With Obamacare’s online exchanges failing to provide rural Americans with expanded options for plans, some Americans are forgoing the exchange to buy plans in the independent market. Residents in 515 counties — nearly 1 out of 5 counties nationwide — only have one insurer selling coverage on HealthCare.gov.
The cost of plans on HealthCare.gov is significantly different when residents have only one insurer versus more. According to the Wall Street Journal, the average price for a 50-year-old for a “silver plan” through the exchange jumps from $329 in places with four insurers to $406 in those with only one.
The Journal reports some insurers are only offering plans via the exchanges in areas with lower health-care costs and stable financial standing. As a result, in many rural areas, where health-care costs and unemployment are high, consumers must often choose between limited plans offered on HealthCare.gov or buy policies directly from the insurer outside of the exchange if they want more than one insurer as an option, but are ineligible for federal subsidies.
Health-care costs are already generally higher in rural areas because of the limited options in hospitals and physicians. And under Obamacare, experts say those areas are not likely to attract more insurance companies to sell plans on the exchanges.
“I don’t think the health law can overcome those economics,” a health-care economist told the Journal.