No rate shock for consumers with 'lower than expected' exchange premiums

A new analysis of premium costs for plans sold on health insurance exchanges finds consumers aren't likely to experience "rate shock" like so many reform opponents have warned.

In its study, the Kaiser Family Foundation analyzed premiums for individuals and families in different circumstances in the 17 states and Washington, D.C., that have publicly released rate information. Of those 18 exchanges, 11 will be state-based and seven will run by the federal government.

Researchers said "while premiums will vary significantly across the country, they are generally lower than expected."

The most affordable option is a plan offered to 40-year olds in Baltimore, costing $146 in monthly premiums. Other low-cost options include a $155 monthly premium plan offered to 40-year-old non-smokers in Albuquerque, N.M., and a plan with a $336 per month premium for a 40-year-old non-smoker in Burlington, Vt.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the study found Vermont and New York will sell the most expensive plans. Although New York is offering the most options among insurance companies, it also has one of the highest-priced plans with premiums costing $308 a month for a bronze plan.

"For the most part insurers seem to find this market attractive and they're pricing accordingly," Larry Leavitt, a senior vice president for Kaiser, told Bloomberg.

"What has surprised me is how inexpensive some of these bronze plans will be," Levitt added. "They'll come with high deductibles and significant out-of-pocket costs for consumers, but for those who are looking for catastrophic protection there will be some inexpensive options out there, particularly if you're eligible for a tax credit."

To learn more:
- here's the Kaiser study (.pdf)
- read the Bloomberg article