KFF: Benchmark rates up modestly in 13 major cities...and SHOP AROUND, DAMMIT!

The Kaiser Family Foundation has posted an updated analysis of the average rate hikes for the benchmark Silver plans (ie, the 2nd-lowest cost policies) and the lowest-cost Silver plans in each market.

"Benchmark" in this case refers to the plans which are used as the basis for the ACA's Advance Premium Tax Credit (APTC) formula. How much/little these particular rates change is even more important than the change in other policy rates, because these are the ones which the federal tax credit amounts are based on.

This is really important, because if the benchmark policy rate in your area changes, it can seriously impact how you receive in tax credits...even if nothing has changed at your end.

In other words, even if your income stays the same, you don't move, you have the same number of dependents and the policy you're enrolled in this year doesn't change their rates one dime, your APTC amount could still change dramatically if the benchmark Silver policy in your region increases (or decreases).

This is why, again, it's vitally important that you DON'T AUTORENEW this fall. Make sure to SHOP AROUND via Healthcare.Gov or your state-based exchange, even if you're certain that you don't want/need to change anything.

Anyway...the new KFF study looks at the lowest- and 2nd-lowest (benchmark) Silver plans in 13 major metropolitan areas, and here's what they came up with:

A mixed bag, to be sure, and Portland, Oregon is pretty ugly...but overall, they estimate an average rate hike of around 3.1% across these 13 cities for the benchmark plans (and just 4.2% for the lowest-priced silver plans).

The only quibble I have here is that those averages (3.1% and 4.2%) don't appear to be weighted by either enrollment in those plans or population of those cities. After all, New York City is nearly 12 times as large as Detroit). As far as I can tell, they just tallied up all of the city averages and divided by 13 to get the unweighted average.

Still, the larger point is, as Larry Levitt put it:

ACA benchmark premiums to ↑ an average of 3.1% in 2016 in 13 major cities. A bigger hike than 2015 but still modest. http://t.co/pd9rzGQbtY

— Larry Levitt (@larry_levitt) September 10, 2015