HHS: Exchange premiums much lower than first predicted

Premiums for some policies sold on the health insurance exchanges next year will cost far less--up to 18 percent lower-- than initially predicted, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) said Thursday.

In a new report, HHS concluded that silver plans, considered to be middle-of-the-road plans, will cost about $321 a month, compared to last year's estimates from the Congressional Budget Office that silver plan premiums would average $392.

Those numbers are based on insurers' proposed and final premium rates submitted in 10 states, California, Colorado, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, plus Washington, D.C., that HHS analyzed.

"Today's report shows that the Affordable Care Act is working to increase transparency and competition among health insurance plans and drive premiums down," HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement. "The reforms in the healthcare law ensure consumers will have access to better coverage at a lower cost in 2014."

But some industry analysts didn't see the news in such a positive light. "They're comparing it not to what people actually pay today, or what people expect to pay, but rather frankly a guess from the Congressional Budget Office from last year that really doesn't represent a good indicator of whether people are happy with their options or not," Joseph Antos, a health economist at the American Enterprise Institute, told Bloomberg.

America's Health Insurance Plans Spokesman Robert Zirkelbach added: "The impact of the ACA will vary considerably depending on a person's age, gender, health status, and where they live. Simply looking at averages doesn't tell you what these reforms are going to mean for a particular person in a particular state."

What's more, the states that HHS analyzed aren't necessarily an accurate representation of the whole country; most fully support health reform and are operating their own online marketplaces, Kaiser Health News reported.

To learn more:
- here's the HHS statement and report
- read the Bloomberg article
- see the Kaiser Health News article