The Department of Health and Human Services today released an analysis of consumer choice and premiums in the 2018 federal health insurance exchange, which focuses on states that use the HealthCare.gov platform. According to HHS, the average monthly premium for the second-lowest cost silver plan (the benchmark plan) grew 37% for 2018 while the average monthly premium for the lowest-cost plan of any metal level grew 17%. Due to the growth in the cost of the benchmark plan, according to HHS, the average advanced premium tax credits will increase 45% in 2018 to $555. As a result, enrollees who qualify for APTC may pay a lower portion of their premiums than in prior plan years, especially if they select plans from metal levels other than silver, the agency said. Many states required plan issuers to load an additional premium increase onto silver plans to account for uncertainty over cost-sharing reduction payments. The number of plan issuers participating in the exchange fell from 167 in 2017 to 132 for 2018, with eight states expected to have only one issuer.