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WSJ on Obamacare: Healthy Consumers Should Prepare to See a 'Jolt' in Health-Insurance Costs


Healthy consumers could see their health-insurance rates double or even triple when they apply for individual coverage under President Barack Obama’s landmark health care overhaul, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Premiums for sicker consumers, on the other hand, should become “more affordable.”

“The exchanges, the centerpiece of President Barack Obama's health-care law, look likely to offer few if any of the cut-rate policies that healthy people can now buy,” the report notes. “At the same time, the top prices look to be within reach for many people who previously faced sky-high premiums because of chronic illnesses or who couldn't buy insurance at all.”

“Several big provisions in the law taking effect in six months affect rates for the estimated 20% of Americans who don't have coverage through an employer, Medicare or Medicaid.

"Plans must be available to consumers regardless of their health and must cover certain items such as hospitalization, maternity care and prescription drugs,” the report adds.

The WSJ reviewed rates proposed by insurers in eight states to calculate the least- and most-expensive possible plans on the exchanges. The problem, according to the WSJ’s analysis, is that it appears “healthy” consumers are most likely to see their premiums go up.

This may be problematic because, as the report explains, the feds want to attract healthy consumers to the exchanges. But if healthy people find it’s cheaper to be fined than it is to go on the exchange – then there may be a problem:

“For a 40-year-old single nonsmoker—in the middle of the age range eligible for exchanges—a ‘bronze’ plan covering about 60% of medical costs will be available for about $200 a month in most places,” the report explains. “Though less generous than ‘silver’ and ‘gold’ plans on the exchanges, a bronze plan would still include fuller benefits than many policies available on the individual market today.”

“The challenge for the law is that healthy 40-year-olds can typically get coverage for less today, especially if they are willing to accept fewer benefits or take on more costs themselves.

Obamacare, according to the report, is most likely to benefit those who are already sick or are having a difficult time getting insurance.

“Under the current system, the rate on the $63-a-month plan could be revised higher if a consumer indicates prior health problems in a medical questionnaire that must be filled out before buying the plan," the report notes.

Currently, health care providers will immediately reject an application if specific answers are not provided.

But under the new health care exchanges, “plans are available regardless of health status, and a price can't change once it is offered,” the report adds.

“Top-of-the-line plans on the exchanges that cover 80% of medical costs and have a wider network of doctors and hospitals are likely to be available for about $400 a month for a 40-year-old single person,” it notes.

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The problem with that, however, is that lower-income individuals are most likely to sign on to the exchanges. Four-hundred dollars per month is a lot of money.

Still, as the report continues, “it could be less than some people currently encounter after a carrier considers their medical history.”

“Those without coverage face out-of-pocket medical bills in the tens of thousands of dollars if they get sick,” it adds.

Click here to read the full WSJ report.


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