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Health insurer options in federal exchange increasing

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Individuals eligible for coverage in the federal health insurance exchange generally had more insurers to choose from during the 2015 open enrollment season than in the 2014 open enrollment season, according to a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services analysis released Thursday.

In 2015, 86% of consumers could choose coverage from at least three insurers writing coverage through exchanges offered in the 35 states where HHS runs them, up from 70% in 2014.

In all, in the 2,544 counties where coverage was provided through the federal exchange in the 2015 open enrollment season, 59% saw an increase in the number of insurers offering coverage, while 8% lost insurers and 33% saw no change.

The number of insurers writing coverage in the federal exchange had a direct correlation on premiums charged for coverage. Premiums were 9% lower on average in counties with at least three insurers compared with counties where only one or two insurers offered coverage, according to the analysis.

“Today's study shows the Affordable Care Act is working to increase choice and competition for consumers and keep premium growth in check,” HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell said in a statement.