The U.S. government for the first time Wednesday released data on the cost of the Obamacare health care exchanges, revealing that younger, healthier consumers will most likely end up paying more in the future while older consumers will most likely pay less.
The average cost for the “bronze” plan, the lowest-priced policy, for a 27-year-old nonsmoker, male or female, would start out at about $163 per month. For the same consumer, the “silver” plan should start at about $203 per month while the more comprehensive “gold” plan would start at about $240 per month (roughly $2,900 per year).
The health care plans will be offered to anyone not receiving insurance from an employer or a government program. The plans will also apparently offer broader coverage than most current plans, The Wall Street Journal reported.
However, as the Journal noted, some consumers will see their less-comprehensive policy costs increase.
A 27-year-old nonsmoker in Nashville, Tenn., for instance, can currently pay as little as $43 for a bare-minimum insurance plan. But under the health care exchanges, that cost would jump to roughly $114 per month for the “bronze” plan.
The same goes for Philadelphia where a 27-year-old nonsmoker would see their monthly cost for a bare-bones policy jump to $195 from $73. And in Cheyenne, Wyo., that same 27-year-old would see their lowest-cost option jump to $271 per month from $82 per month.
The data released Wednesday covers 36 states where the federal government is running insurance exchanges because state lawmakers have opted to let them take care of it. A total of 14 states have opted to operate the exchanges on their own.
The data shows that prices will vary from region to region and that government subsidies will supposedly ease costs on lower-income individuals.
President Barack Obama’s signature health care law bars insurance carriers from charging consumers with preexisting conditions premiums on their plans. The law also requires that insurance carriers offer more comprehensive coverage for consumers.
This will most likely translate into increased costs for younger, healthier consumers.
“The prices are affordable,” said Gary Cohen, a top regulator at the Department of Health and Human Services. “Because of the Affordable Care Act, the health insurance that people will be buying will actually cover them in the case of them getting sick. It doesn’t make sense to compare just the number the person was paying, you have to compare the value people are getting.”
But critics point to the price changes as proof of the increase in premium costs the bill will force on many Americans.
“Obamacare hasn’t even been fully implemented yet, but we can already see the train wreck headed our way. Premiums are skyrocketing,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said.
Worries over skyrocketing costs have U.S. lawmakers scrambling to delay portions of the bill, including the so-called “employer mandate,” to give them enough time to address these concerns.
The law’s success “will depend on the changes that are made over the next couple of years to address the affordability issue,” Brian Wright, an insurance analyst at Monness Crespi Hardt & Co. in New York, told Bloomberg. “If you have modifications that can help address those issues, then it will ultimately be successful. If not, then it’s an open question.”
The exchanges will be open for enrollment nationwide on Oct. 1 and will start offering coverage beginning Jan. 1.
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