UPDATED: Oct. 27, 2015 3:21 p.m.

RICHMOND, Va. — Many Virginia residents seeking insurance coverage on the health care exchange will see their premiums go up next year, but rates are rising less in Virginia than in most states, federal officials said.

The cost of the mid-level silver plan in Virginia — also called the benchmark plan — will increase an average of 4 percent for 2016 coverage under the Affordable Care Act, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Monthly premiums for benchmark plans across the 37 states, including Virginia, that rely on the federal exchange will rise 7.5 percent, the department said.

Virginia has been able to keep premium increases relatively low, compared to other states, because it has a competitive insurance market, said Doug Gray, executive director of the Virginia Association of Health Plans.

Some states have just a few carriers in the marketplace, but there are 10 entities offering coverage on the exchange across Virginia next year, said Ken Schrad, a spokesman for Virginia’s State Corporation Commission.

Virginia’s exchange this year includes newcomer UnitedHealthcare, whose entry is a sign that the health law is working in the state, Gray said.

“That shows you that they view this market as one that’s important and that’s competitive and they want to get in. They wouldn’t be getting in if it wasn’t a good opportunity,” he said.

Some states are seeing average premium increases as much as 30 percent, while rates are dropping in a handful of states.

Even though costs will rise for many consumers, federal officials say nearly 80 percent of those who are returning to the exchange this year will be able to buy coverage for 2016 for less than $100 a month after their tax credits kick in.

A new sign up period on Healthcare.gov starts on Sunday and extends through January 31. At the end of the last enrollment session, more than 385,000 Virginians had signed up for coverage on the exchange.

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(© Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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