Insurers Enter HIXs Despite Gaping Uncertainty

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media , September 25, 2013

"We are excited to see that rates in the marketplace are even lower than originally projected," HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said during a media call on Tuesday afternoon. "In the past, consumers were too often denied or priced out of quality health insurance options, but thanks to the Affordable Care Act, consumers will be able to choose from a number of new coverage options at a price that is affordable."

HHS says its report shows that people living in the 36 states where HHS will fully or partly run the health insurance Marketplace—which is HHS's term for the federally operated exchanges—will have an average of 53 qualified health plan choices. Plans in the Marketplace will be categorized as gold, silver, or bronze, depending on the share of costs covered. Young adults will also have the option of purchasing a "catastrophic" plan, increasing their number of choices to 57 on average. About 95% of consumers will have a choice of two or more health insurance issuers, often many more. About one in four of these insurance companies is offering health plans in the individual market for the first time in 2014.

The average premium nationally for the second-lowest cost silver plan will be $328 before tax credits, or 16% below projections based on Congressional Budget Office estimates. About 95% of uninsured people eligible for the Marketplace live in states where their average premiums are lower than projections. And states with the lowest premiums have more than twice the number of insurance companies offering plans than states with the highest premiums, HHS says.

John Commins is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media.

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