ACA premium drop predicted in AZ

ACA premium drop predicted in AZ

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Julie Simons talked about her job and the products that her small business had to offer.

Doing so, she also couldn't help but think about the well-being of her five employees in her skin care company, and the intimidation of finding health insurance for them the last time around.

"It took about a weeks-worth of digging and phone calls and quotes," Simons, the owner of, said about getting her employees covered in 2017.

She wanted reasonable and affordable care, but to do so in the Affordable Care Act marketplace last year was difficult.

During the 2016 election, Arizona became the poster child for huge healthcare premium increases.

"Obamacare premiums nationwide have increased by double and triple digits," President Donald Trump said during a February address to Congress. "As an example, Arizona went up 116 percent last year alone."

In 2018, premiums are expected to rise nationwide.

Premiums for the most popular health plans are going up nationally by an average of 34 percent, according to an independent analysis of newly-released government data.

An Associated Press report said the 34 percent average increase is for silver plans. Premiums are also going up by double digits for bronze, gold, and platinum plans, which have different levels of coverage.

The independent analysis by the consulting firm Avalere Health finds that the Trump administration's actions are contributing to the price hikes, adding instability to the marketplace.

But Arizona is now one of three states expected to see average premiums d rop in 2018.

"We have only very few selected insurance companies that are in our network here in Arizona. So when you don't have competition, and you don't have to be competing against each other, it's a stable area to be working in," said Alma Hernandez with the Arizonans United for Healthcare Coalition.

That stability is welcome news for Simons, because her own life has been incredibly unstable for more than two years.

"I didn't sit down on March 26, 2015, and jot down in my calendar 'it's a good day for breast cancer' five days before my birthday. I didn't know that was coming," she said.

Simons was diagnosed with stage 2 triple-positive breast cancer.

Since the diagnosis, while already being under Obamacare coverage, she watched her own deductible jump to $4,000. To her, it was a small price to pay considering her first round of chemotherapy cost $24,000.

"So I happily wrote them a check."

Now, in remission, she's helping her employees and wants to get the same safeguards for them that she has had for herself.

Consumers can start previewing plans and premiums online for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act in 2018, and can sign up during open enrollment starting Nov. 1 and ending Dec. 15.

Simons is unsure what she'll see when she logs in to sign up.

"I will go on to the exchange, and cross my fingers, that they are offering a plan that I can afford - and that will cover my employees at a similar level that they are right now."

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