GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- People nationwide expect to pay more in health care plan premiums under the Affordable Care Act in 2017, with many in West Michigan questioning whether they can continue to afford it.
Some states most affected, like Pennsylvania, have many insurance carriers dropping out of their ACA market next year and face premium increases of an average 33 percent, according to Grand Valley State University Economics Professor Leslie Muller.
In Michigan, those insured under the ACA can anticipate an average 17 percent premium increase, though many residents says they're even far beyond those numbers.
“It almost gave me a heart attack when I opened up the envelope," said Scott Winters, West Michigan radio personality and realtor who is self-employed. "My premiums go from $285.42, which is what I’m currently paying in 2016, it’ll jump up to $359.88 in 2017. That’s a 26 percent increase just from year to year.”
Winters considers himself healthy: he says he has no prescriptions and hasn't paid a dime of his annual deductible. Though since he's been insured with the ACA since 2015, Winters says his premium has increased by a cumulative 46 percent.
“As a single person this is a lot of money," said Winters. "I don’t know how somebody who’s married, and has a family, how can they ever afford health care?"
Muller explained a major reason for the higher projected premium increases is that insurers have left the market.
“It has to be profitable because most insurers have other markets: they have employer markets," said Muller. "So they don’t have to be in this market. And if they’re not going to be able to at least break even, then there’s no point in being there.”
In response to Michigan's projections, the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services Director Patrick McPharlin released this statement:
"Michigan is fortunate in that we continue to have a stable and competitive health insurance market with a range of options and premiums for consumers and businesses throughout the state."
“As long as we continue to have a lot of insurers in our markets, and the subsidies continue to increase with the premiums, I don’t expect that we’re going to have a lot of major issues in the Michigan market," said Muller.
Muller says tax deductions should offset the premium hikes, so long as they continue to rise with insurance inflation. Though many Michigan residents like Steve Wyskochil still question whether they can afford these increases. Wyskochil's is projected to be 24 percent.
“It’s going to be a pretty big life adjustment for me," said Wyskochil. "I work quite a bit as it is, Monday through Friday, and to get a weekend job just to help out a little bit, it really puts me out.”
Open enrollment for Affordable Care Act health insurance begins Nov. 1.