Thursday, July 18, 2013

Obama Administration: Premiums Under Obamacare Will Be Even Lower Than Originally Predicted

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is set to release a report on Thursday morning that analyzes the 2014 premiums in the Obamacare insurance marketplaces in 11 different states, including Virginia, Colorado, Ohio, and Oregon. Officials said that the data will show that the weighted average of the least expensive mid-level health plans in those states’ marketplaces are 18 percent lower than what the CBO thought they would be when the law first passed.

The report will emphasize low costs for young Americans who buy insurance — a group that many commentators have argued would see their rates go up under Obamacare — by using Los Angeles county as an example. There, HHS expects the cheapest, mid-level “Silver” plan for a 25 year old to cost $174 per month without a federal subsidy, and only $34 per month (with a tax credit) for somebody making $17,235. Those numbers also track with data provided by California’s marketplace last month.

The new data comes on the heels of Wednesday’s news that New Yorkers’ premiums will be significantly lower under the health law. Insurers in Oregon, Montana, Louisiana, and California have also already announced marketplace rates that are lower than expected and offer more robust benefits than current policies. And many Americans will actually be able to buy insurance for even lower prices than those top line numbers, thanks to insurance subsidies provided by the federal government.

Flanked by Americans who have personally benefited from the Affordable Care Act through insurance rebates and lower premiums, President Barack Obama will emphasize the tangible effects of his signature health care law in a speech on Thursday.

Obama will also cite government data showing that millions of Americans have received rebates from their insurance companies due to Obamacare’s “medical loss ratio” provision (also known as the “80/20 rule”), which requires insurers in the individual market to spend at least 80 percent of the premiums they charge on actual medical care rather than profits or overhead. By the administration’s estimates, 8.5 million Americans have received an average rebate of $100 thanks to the rule, and consumers have also seen $3.4 billion in upfront savings as insurance companies lower their premiums in an effort to comply with the law.

That’s consistent with earlier independent analyses by organizations like the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), which found that in 2012, Americans who bought individual health plans saved approximately $2.1 billion thanks to the law. The number includes $1.9 billion in lower 2012 premiums and another $200 million worth of rebate checks — which could be as high as $500 in certain insurance markets where companies tend to gouge prices.

Administration officials hope to use the numbers, and the image of actual Americans who have benefited from the health care law, as a counterargument to what they see as a debate that has been largely conceptual up until now. “The Affordable Care Act has been this abstraction. As we get closer to the open enrollment period beginning, the abstraction is evaporating… The facts of the law are turning into benefits being experienced by real people,” said one senior administration official on a conference call with reporters.

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