The Ottumwa Courier

AP National

September 26, 2013

Obamacare trade-off: low premium, high deductible

(Continued)

Also on Wednesday, the administration unveiled premiums and plan choices for 36 states where the federal government is taking the lead to cover uninsured residents. Insurance markets that go live Oct. 1 will offer subsidized private coverage to people who do not have health insurance on the job, including the uninsured and those who currently buy their own policies.

Before new tax credits that work like a discount for most consumers, premiums for a mid-range "silver" benchmark plan will average $328 a month nationally for an individual, the administration report found. Beneath that average are wide differences for individuals, depending on where they live, how much they make, and other factors.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the average consumer will be able to choose among more than 50 plan options.

"For millions of Americans, these new options will finally make health insurance work within their budgets," Sebelius told reporters in a preview call Tuesday. The markets — called "exchanges" in some states — are the only place where consumers will be able to get a tax credit for health insurance.

HHS estimated that about 95 percent of consumers will have two or more insurers to choose from. And the administration says premiums will generally be lower than what congressional budget experts estimated when the legislation was being debated. About one-fourth of the insurers participating are new to the individual coverage market, a sign that could be good for competition.

But averages can be misleading. When it comes to the new health care law, individuals can get dramatically different results based on their particular circumstances.

Where you live, the plan you pick, family size, age, tax credits based on your income, and even tobacco use will all impact the bottom line. All those variables could make the system hard to navigate.

For example, the average individual premium for a benchmark policy known as the "second-lowest-cost silver plan" ranges from a low of $192 in Minnesota to a high of $516 in Wyoming. That's the sticker price, before tax credits.

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