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Affordable Care Act premiums will get cheaper for the first time

Affordable care act

It will cost a little less to buy the benchmark Affordable Care Act plan in 2019.

The average premium for the silver plan will decline by 1.5%, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said Thursday.

Next year will be the first time average premiums have fallen since the Affordable Care Act exchanges opened in 2014.

The decline comes after a 37% spike for this year’s benchmark silver plan, upon which premium subsidies are based.

The number of insurers on the federal exchange will grow for the first time since 2015. There will be 23 more carriers for 2019 than there were during the open enrollment period in 2018, the agency said.

Four states will have only one insurer, down from 10 states in 2018.

The drop was expected by those who watch the industry closely. Many insurers are breaking even or have started making a profit in the individual market, and the law remains in force after Republican-led repeal efforts failed last year.

Despite the rosier outlook for the Affordable Care Act, threats still loom. Starting next year, Americans will no longer face a penalty for being uninsured, which may prompt some younger and healthier enrollees to drop out of the individual market. Also, it will be easier for people to sign up for alternatives to Obamacare, including short-term health plans and association health plans, which are usually cheaper but offer skimpier benefits.