President Trump carried out a longstanding threat and ended certain subsidies for insurers. To compensate for the lost funding, insurers increased the prices of their plans - heavily in the silver category and less so in others.
Now the silver plans will be more expensive in many markets than gold plans that have much lower deductibles. For people who qualify for government subsidies, that's good news: Their subsidies will rise with the rising cost of silver plans, and they'll be able to afford a plan that requires much less out-of-pocket spending for their health care. For those who don't, it highlights just how expensive many silver plans have gotten as a result of the president's action, and how hard people may need to work to find an affordable option.
The least expensive gold option for next year is cheaper than the least expensive silver option in about a sixth of counties using Healthcare.Gov to market plans. Gold is a better option in much of New Mexico, Wyoming, Kansas, and parts of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Georgia. There are also a substantial number of counties in Texas, Florida, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Michigan where the price difference between a gold plan and a silver plan with a much higher deductible is smaller than $25 a month.
If you live in one of the places where the gold plan is cheaper than the silver plan, and you earn more than about $24,000, you should not buy the more expensive silver option. The gold plan will cost less, and have a lower deductible. There are also high-deductible bronze plans that will have substantially lower premiums that you may also want to consider. If you qualify for a government subsidy, those will be your best options.
If you earn too much to qualify for federal help buying insurance, you should also steer clear of the more expensive silver plans on HealthCare.gov. But there may be cheaper options in the silver category if you buy directly from an insurance company. A broker may be able to help you examine all of those options.
If you earn less than $24,000, a silver plan will still be your best choice. That's because you qualify for additional discounts that will lower your deductible and co-payment, making a silver plan even more generous than a gold plan. Premium subsidies, which are unaffected by the president's actions, will protect you from premium price increases.
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