Q. Will I be able to see next year’s rates on the exchange web sites before open enrollment begins?
A. In most states, yes. But how early they’ll be available depends on where you live.
In states that are utilizing HealthCare.gov, browsing is enabled prior to open enrollment, but not significantly so. For 2015 plans, HealthCare.gov enabled browsing about a week before the start of open enrollment. Open enrollment for 2016 begins on November 1, 2015, and HealthCare.gov has said that rates and plans will be available to browse by late October.
Their browsing tool is quite user friendly. You enter your zip code, age, income, and whether you’re pregnant or a smoker – it all takes less than a minute, and the website is generally fast and glitch-free.
The site tells you your estimated subsidy amount, and then gives a very brief summary of important info you need to know before you shop. From there, it shows you all of the plans available, including your price before and after the subsidy is applied.
For 2015 and 2016 plans, four state-run exchanges – California, Colorado, Maryland, and Idaho –had the coming year’s rates and plans loaded on their web sites with browsing enabled well in advance of the start of open enrollment. (In October 2015, California even began allowing current enrollees to renew or change their plans for 2016 more than two weeks before the start of the general open enrollment.)
On the other hand, Washington state won’t enable 2016 plan browsing on its site until the 2016 open enrollment period begins. Decisions like this can change from one year to another; Washington might decide to allow browsing in advance of open enrollment in future years.
In five states (Alabama, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, and Wyoming), HHS is responsible for conducting a review of rates filed by insurers for the coming year. In those states, rate information is not released until the rates and plans are loaded onto HealthCare.gov. (All five of those states use the federally-run exchange).
But state regulators conduct the review process in DC and the remaining 45 states. (Some also rely on HHS to grant final approval for rates, but the states participate to some degree in the rate approval process.) The duration of the rate review process – and the extent of information provided to the public – varies considerably from one state to another.
In the weeks leading up to open enrollment, we keep track of proposed and finalized rates that states release; ACAsignups is also an excellent source of current information regarding rates in each state.
The majority of the states use HealthCare.gov. That site – at least through 2016 – only allows plan browsing for a few days prior to open enrollment. But most states – including many that use HealthCare.gov – have the coming year’s rates available on their Department of Insurance web site several weeks in advance of open enrollment.
In that format, they’re not available for customized browsing the way they eventually are on the exchange sites. (You can’t put in your age and zip code and see exact rates.) But they can give enrollees a general sense of how their own rates will change in the coming year.