New Jersey health insurance marketplace down to 2 companies as rates increase

TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey residents will only be able to choose between two companies this year in the federal health insurance marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act.

Open enrollment for 2017 begins on Tuesday and lasts through January. New Jersey residents can choose between plans from Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey or AmeriHealth New Jersey.

A review by The Associated Press found that Americans in the health insurance markets will have less choice next year than any time since the program started.

Insurance plans from Oscar, UnitedHealthcare and Health Republic of New Jersey will no longer be offered for 2017.

Largely as a result of the Affordable Care Act, the nation's uninsured rate has dropped to a historically low level of less than 9 percent. But the program remains politically divisive.

Costs on average are going up for consumers in 2017. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the cost of a mid-level plan will go up 25 percent.

New Jersey does participate in the federal exchange, but HHS said premium increases in the state should only increase about 5 percent next year.

In New York, on the state-run exchange, rates are expected to go up 16.6 percent, on average. New York offers 17 insurers to choose from statewide.

“We still have two, and they have 19 plans on average that consumers can pick from. So there is still plenty of competition,” said Jackie Cornell, a regional director for the U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services. She attended the grand opening of one of multiple enrollment centers that will offer in-person assistance to shoppers in the coming months.

Uninsured consumers have until Jan. 31, 2017 to sign up or else they face a fine of $695 or 2.5 percent of their annual income.