Their article comes as California's Obamacare marketplace has revealed that rates on that health exchange will rise by an average of 13.2 percent next year. Many Obamacare insurance plans elsewhere have proposed increasing premiums by high single-digit or double-digit percentages for coverage in 2017.
Those private plans, so-called individual market plans, are sold to individuals who do not have health coverage through either their jobs, or through government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.
The article's title, "Obamacare Premiums are Lower Than You Think," reflects the fact that after Obamacare took effect in 2014 there have been frequent stories in the media about premium increases "for certain plans, in certain cities, or for certain individuals," the authors note.
Those stories have reinforced a belief that the implementation of the ACA has, on average, led to a marked increase in the price that people who buy individual health plans pay, as compared to what they paid prior to Obamacare.
The authors point out that such a belief is understandable, given the fact that ACA barred insurers from either denying coverage to less-healthy people, or charging them higher rates than healthy people. Obamacare also required health plans "to cover a broader set of benefits, and imposed new taxes and regulations," which also would be expected to increase insurers' costs, and hence premium rates.
But what actually happened, the authors said, is just the opposite.
They point to the fact that many ACA features actually "push [prices] in the opposite direction and save consumers money." Among them is the federal mandate requiring nearly all Americans to have some form of health coverage or pay a fine, "which greatly expanded the number of people purchasing coverage in the individual market, pushing premiums down by increasing the sheer size of the market."
"The bigger the market, the lower the prices," the authors wrote, adding that the new customers included many previously uninsured healthier people, who would tend to cost less to cover.
Another factor was the ACA's creation of "relatively transparent marketplaces" where insurers have to compete on premiums for plans that have standardized levels of coverage of costs.
"These changes placed strong downward pressure on insurance premiums, outweighing the factors pushing in the opposite direction," the article said.
In 2009, the authors estimated that the average annual premium in the individual market was $3,480 per year, or $290 per month. And that was for a plan that, on average, covered about 60 percent of enrollees' health expenses, with the remaining 40 percent paid out of pocket by customers in the form of deductibles, copayments and coinsurance.
By comparison, in 2014, the average premium for the benchmark plan was $3,800, or almost $317 per month, "only 9 percent higher despite the passage of five years," the authors wrote.
And they noted that silver plans cover about 70 percent of enrollees' health expenses.
"Adjusting for the difference in actuarial value [the amount of costs covered], this premium was actually lower in nominal dollars than that in 2009," the article said.
"Moreover, by any measure, individual market premiums had grown enough by 2013 such that the average $3,800 SLS [second-lowest cost silver] plan premium in 2014 represented a sharp drop from the previous year, despite covering a higher percentage of enrollee costs and offering a broader set of health benefits," the authors wrote.
They also said that while it won't be surprising if premiums rise by a lot next year given the "financial difficulties" many insurers are having with Obamacare plans, "even if ACA marketplace premiums grow significantly in 2017, they will still be much lower" than individual plan premiums would have been without the ACA, on average.