TN premiums under Affordable Care Act among lowest in nation

Average premiums for Tennesseans seeking coverage under new Affordable Care Act health insurance markets rank near the lowest of the participating states, according to the Tennessean.

Before tax credits that work like an up-front discount for most consumers, sticker-price premiums are well below the national monthly average, officials said.

For instance, premiums under the cheapest, or Bronze, plan offered in Tennessee would average $181 per month, the third-lowest rate in the country above Oklahoma and Minnesota.

Premiums under the next-highest level, or Silver, plan offered in Tennessee would average $235 per month, the second-lowest rate in the country above Minnesota.

The premiums unveiled this week don’t include tax credits. The bottom line will depend on income, location, plan type, family size and even tobacco use.

Still, there could be sticker shock for many residents. According to an analysis by the Wall Street Journal, premiums for younger, healthier customers may be higher than expected to help offset costs for other high-risk individuals. According to the research, a 27-year-old male nonsmoker in Nashville would pay $114 a month for the lowest-cost package. That compares to a $41 bill for a bare-bones policy on today’s private market.

The overview of premiums and plan choices, released Wednesday by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, comes as the White House swings into full campaign mode to promote the benefits of the Affordable Care Act to a skeptical public.

Congressional Republicans, meanwhile, refuse to abandon their quest to derail “Obamacare” and flirt with a government shutdown to force the issue.

Sebelius stressed the positive in a preview call with reporters. Consumers will be able to choose from an average of 53 plan options when the new markets open Oct. 1 for people who don’t have health care on the job.

“For millions of Americans, these new options will finally make health insurance work within their budgets,” she said.

A report by her department 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.

Note: Sen. Lamar Alexander (who, in case you haven’t heard, really hates Obamacare), issued a news release on the HHS report emphasizing that some will pay higher premiums. It’s below.

News release from Sen. Lamar Alexander’s office:
WASHINGTON, Sept. 25—The senior Republican on the U.S. Senate health committee said that an Obama administration report released today finds the new health care law will increase premiums for some Tennesseans by as much as 290 percent.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R. Tenn) said: “Why should a 27-year-old male in Memphis be forced to pay nearly three times more than what he pays today for health insurance? Why should a young woman in Nashville have to pay twice as much? This isn’t what President Obama promised Tennesseans, but it’s what he’s giving them—higher costs and less choice—two of the most urgent reasons Obamacare must be repealed and our health care system fixed.”

The report, released by the Health and Human Services Department, contains limited information on what health insurance coverage will cost on the exchanges in each of the 50 states.

Some details on what Tennesseans can expect:

Today, a 27-year-old man in Memphis can buy a plan for as low as $41 a month. On the exchange, the lowest state average is $119 a month—a 290% increase.

Today, a 27-year-old woman in Nashville can also buy a plan for as low as $58 a month. On the exchange, the lowest-priced plan in Nashville is $114 a month—a 197% increase. Even with a tax subsidy, that plan is $104 a month, almost twice what she could pay today.

· Today, women in Nashville can choose from 30 insurance plans that cost less than the administration says insurance plans on the exchange will cost, even with the new tax subsidy.
· In Nashville, 105 insurance plans offered today will not be available in the exchange.