Exchanges could feature cheaper 'copper' plans

Some insurers, as well as two Democratic lawmakers, are urging the Obama administration to allow the sale of cheaper so-called "copper" plans on the federal health insurance exchange, reported The Wall Street Journal.

Featuring lower premiums and higher up-front costs for consumers, copper plans would cover about half of a member's medical costs and cap out-of-pocket costs at a little more than $6,000 for individuals and $12,000 for families.

Democratic Sens. Mark Begich of Alaska and Mark Warner of Virginia are considering introducing legislation that would allow insurers to sell copper plans through However, Sen. Warner's office declined to provide details on the idea since it's still in the planning stages, according to Fox Business.

The Council for Affordable Health Coverage, a coalition of employers and insurers that includes Aetna and Cigna as members, supports the proposal.

The White House said it's considering the plan. "The president remains open to all ideas that would genuinely improve the Affordable Care Act and appreciates the careful thought Mr. Begich has given to his legislation," an Obama administration official told the WSJ.

However, some industry experts worry the copper plans would be akin to policies that were canceled last year because they didn't meet benefit requirements under the Affordable Care Act.

Paul Howard, director of the Center for Medical Progress at the Manhattan Institute, counters that argument, saying a fourth-tier exchange plan could draw younger consumers. "This new tier would be subsidy-eligible, bring premiums lower and be health savings account-eligible," Howard told Fox Business. "This is fantastic--it allows people to build savings, pay out of pocket and could be attractive to young people and more price-conscious consumers."

To learn more:
- read the Wall Street Journal article
- see the Fox Business article