HHS: Obamacare Premiums Will Be Lower Than Expected
By Dr. James Palermo // September 26, 2013
HEALTH INSURANCE MARKETPLACES OPEN OCT. 1
ABOVE VIDEO: This PBS Newshour video reports on the recently released HHS report that details coverage choices for consumers in the Obamacare health care exchanges. What will their premiums cost? Ray Suarez is joined by Louise Radnofsky of The Wall Street Journal to answer some of your most frequently asked questions.
Obamacare protects the healthcare consumer and premiums will be lower than expected! Obamacare will have a devastating effect on healthcare consumers and premiums will skyrocket! Premiums will be about the same!
Estimates vary according to which political faction are making them. Consumers are understandably confused after weeks of conflicting projections about the expected cost of premiums for health insurance plans offered by Health Insurance Exchanges (HIX) provided for in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA, aka Obamacare) beginning Oct. 1.
$328 ‘AVERAGE’ MONTHLY PREMIUM FOR FLORIDIANS SHOPPING THE HIX
The most recent forecast comes from an Obama administration’s Health and Human Services (HHS) report on Wednesday that predicts premium prices for Federally run exchanges set up under Obamacare will be lower than previously projected.
The report by the HHS Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation covers the 36 states that decided to depend on the federal government to create and run the shopping exchange under the PPACA. Florida is one of them.
“We are excited to see that rates in the Florida Marketplace are even lower than originally projected,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a press release associated with the report.
The report puts the sticker price for a benchmark health plan in Florida’s online Marketplace at an average of $328 a month, about 16 percent below the price that had previously been projected by the Congressional Budget Office in 2012 and the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (FOIR) in August of this year.
CRITICS CHALLENGE REPORT’S CREDIBILITY AND SIGNIFICANCE
Critics of the report tend to note that, for most people, less expensive insurance plans already exist.
On the other side of the aisle, during his 22 hour “non-filibuster” directed at raising the awareness of the American people to what he and his proponents believe is a destructive law that should be defunded, Texas Senator Ted Cruz commented on the HHS report, suggesting that its credibility was suspect based on partisan statistical “cherry-picking,” and that most Americans, whether purchasing insurance through the HIX or on the commercial market will see their premiums increase under Obamacare.
11 COMPANIES OFFERING AVERAGE OF 102 HEALTH PLANS IN FLORIDA
In the early August FIOR report that lists the 11 participating Florida insurance plans and the monthly premiums for their “silver” plan, the rates range from a low of $315 a month for a Humana HMO to $464 a month for Sunshine State Health Plan. The list of participating health plans includes Brevard-based Health First Health Plan, which was projected to offer a monthly “silver” plan premium at $373. $293 was used as the baseline existing monthly premium for comparable coverage.
The HHS analysis shows that “most Americans buying insurance from new state health exchanges will have at least two insurers to choose from.” Six out of 10 people “could pay less than $100 a month in premiums,” with subsidies expected to be available to many consumers, making premiums substantially more affordable for many and some will even be free for qualifying low-income consumers.
The HHS report did not say which companies offered the least-expensive plans, but that information should be available by next Tuesday when the exchanges open. However, according to the report, 11 insurance companies will be offering an average of 102 different health plans for HIX shoppers in Florida. That is second only to the 106 offered in Arizona.
The number of plans varies by region, but of the five metro areas listed for Florida, the number ranges from 86 in Jacksonville to 137 in Miami-Dade, with 98 offered in the Orlando region.
MORE DETAILED CONSUMER INFORMATION AVAILABLE ON OCT. 1
The premium prices by company or which insurers are selling in each region of the state is not included in the HHS report. That exact information won’t be available until the exchanges open on October 1.
Each company can provide a variety of plans –bronze, silver, gold and platinum –with the percentage of medical services actuaries think they will cover determining premiums. Plans also differ in the network of doctors and hospitals they offer as well as the list of covered drugs.
The benchmark plan used by HHS to calculate the average premium is the second-lowest-priced silver plan, which covers 70 percent of projected healthcare costs.
Open enrollment, which begins Oct. 1 on the online Marketplace or exchange, lasts for six months, through March 2014. Those who buy a policy in the fall can be covered as of Jan. 1.
Assuming the market opens on time, consumers shopping on the HIX will be able to find their choices, as of Tuesday, at www.healthcare.gov. A help-line is available online by chat or toll-free at 1-800-318-2596.