Elizabeth (Izzy) Montgomery, MPA
Arkansas experienced a 10.3% decrease in average benchmark premiums in the individual health insurance marketplace between 2021 and 2022, compared to a national decrease of 1.8% during the same time period, according to a new research report from the Urban Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The report uses the second-lowest-cost silver premium for a 40-year-old in each rating region to calculate the state average benchmark premiums. From 2019 to 2022, Arkansas saw an average annual decrease of 6.2% in benchmark premiums, compared to the national average decrease of 2.2%.
Although most states saw premium reductions, there were still considerable differences between individual marketplace insurance premiums across states. The lowest average benchmark premium for a 40-year-old nonsmoker in 2022 among all states was $309 in New Hampshire, and the highest was $766 in West Virginia. The average benchmark premium in Arkansas was $382.
For the same 40-year-old on the lowest silver plan available in 2022, premium costs in Arkansas range from a low of $374 (Ambetter) to a high of $448 (Health Advantage). Most people qualify for federal assistance to help pay for the premium cost, and some qualify for assistance for cost sharing (e.g., copays) when they need to go to the doctor.
Average individual marketplace premium prices in Arkansas are particularly low compared to other states. Arkansas’s average benchmark premium of $382 in 2022 is lower than the benchmark premiums in all surrounding states (Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas, and Oklahoma). We have previously blogged on Arkansas’s lower marketplace premium rates compared to surrounding states in our Data Watch series.
A separate analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation, which reports a weighted average of benchmark premiums across all counties in a state, found that the average benchmark premium in Arkansas decreased by 1.8% from $394 in 2021 to $387 in 2022. Again, this was higher than the average benchmark premiums in all surrounding states.
The decline in national average benchmark premiums in the individual marketplace is contrasted by the rising cost of employer-sponsored premiums. The 2021 installment of an annual survey of employer health benefits by the Kaiser Family Foundation found a 4% increase in average employer-sponsored premiums for individual and family coverage in 2021. The average cost of family premiums through employers has increased by 22% over the past five years and 47% over the past 10 years.
The Urban Institute-Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report also found that the number of insurers participating in the marketplace increased between 2020 and 2022. Of the 58 markets analyzed in 25 states, the number of insurers participating increased from 198 to 288. The report identifies five insurers as participating in Little Rock’s marketplace.