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What Happens to Obamacare Premiums in 2016?

By Maurie Backman – Feb 1, 2016 at 9:41AM

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Let's just say they're not getting any lower.

Utter the word "Obamacare" in a crowded room, and you'll get quite the mixed reaction from the crowd. Though it's often touted as a groundbreaking means of bringing affordable healthcare to the masses, critics of the program are quick to point out that for many, Obamacare is actually the opposite of affordable. In fact, many of those shopping for health insurance on the open market in 2016 will see their Obamacare premiums go up.

Premiums are rising across the board
In 2016, 34 out of 50 states will see their highest Obamacare premiums rise by 20% or more. Meanwhile, in 17 states, the average premium will increase by 20% or more. Minnesota faces the highest average premium increase at 47.7%, followed by Alaska at 39.1%. Other states that top the list include Hawaii, Oklahoma, and North Carolina, with average premium increases of 30%, 29.4%, and 29%, respectively. In fact, Mississippi is currently the only state where the average Obamacare premium is decreasing in 2016.

Silver plan premiums are going up, up, up
The silver plan, the most popular plan among Obamacare's tiered offerings, will sport its fair share of premium increases. Silver plan premiums will climb over 11% on average for 2016, which will cost enrollees an estimated $296 per month. Plan participants in Alaska will be hit the hardest at the silver level, with monthly premium costs rising over 35%, or $169 per month. Mississippi residents, by contrast, will actually come out on top if they opt for the silver plan, as their premiums are going down by 7.1%, which translates into a $20 monthly savings.

Gold and bronze plans will cost more, too
Premiums increases will impact those who purchase the gold plan as well, which carries the highest premium costs to begin with. Gold plan premiums will rise almost 14% on average, or $42 per month. Bronze plans, meanwhile, will increase by an average of 12.6% from $216 to $242 for monthly premium costs.

Why premiums are increasing
While Obamacare may be a smart idea in theory, it's a costly one in practice. Historically, insurance companies were within their rights to deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions or charge a premium for those in poor health. Because Obamacare mandates that insurance companies extend coverage even to high-risk individuals at a reasonable price, the cost to provide that care has to come from somewhere. Hence the rise in premiums.

You'll pay either way
Though the idea of paying a higher premium may prompt you to forego coverage altogether, passing on health insurance won't exactly save you money. For 2016, the penalty for not having health insurance is $695 per adult, $347.50 per child under 18, and $2,085 per family. But wait -- there's more. The fee is actually calculated in one of two ways, so if you fail to obtain health insurance, you could pay up to 2.5% of your household income or the equivalent of the annual premium for the national average price of a Bronze plan -- whichever of the aforementioned penalties is highest.

A better bet is to adjust your budget to absorb whatever higher premium costs you'll inevitably face this year. Though Obamacare may not be an ideal solution to the healthcare crisis, not having health insurance is one major financial risk you simply don't want to take.

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