How Affordable Will The Affordable Care Act Be For You?

Aug 7, 2013

State regulators have approved prices for health insurance plans under the federal Affordable Care Act. But figuring out how much a plan might cost you isn't so easy. The point of Obamacare was to provide health insurance to more people at a lower cost.  So are we at the point yet where we can tell exactly how much money people who want that insurance will have to spend?  "They really can't figure that out until October 1." That's Kevin Counihan.  He's the head of the state's insurance marketplace called Access Health CT. October 1st is when people will be able to pick a plan and enroll for 2014.  "Because that's when the rates get loaded into the system, that's when all the enrollment factors are going to be in place.  So, at this point, they really can't do it." Earlier this week, state regulators approved what are essentially average, base-line premiums for insurance plans in the individual and small group markets offered by the state. They range from just over $200 to almost $350 a month. Is that how much it's going to cost? Not really, Counihan says. Because once you pick a baseline insurance plan, you have to adjust the dollar amount based on how old you are and where you live -- healthcare is more expensive, for instance, in Fairfield County than it is in Hartford County. The pricing reflects that.  And once you've done that, you have to figure out whether you are eligible for a federal subsidy to help offset the cost. "I guess if I'm the individual, I would say, 'Gee, this sounds like someone's withholding information from me or they're deliberately making this confusing.' And that's not the case.  The case is that the world before 2014 and after 14 is just radically different." One takeaway is that it's hard to compare new insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act to ones that existed in the regular marketplace before it.  "There is no apples to apples." Karen Pollitz is a senior fellow with the Kaiser Family Foundation.   "That said, there will be some people out there who have a plan, whether it's an apple or a grape or whatever, and they know what they're paying for it out of pocket and they'll be kind of focused on that price point.  So, even if they have to switch to coverage that costs more because it covers more, they may not immediately feel the 'it covers more' part of it.  They may just see the premium part of it." If you want to compare, then, the better way to do it is to compare Connecticut's average, mid-level rates for individual plans with national rate projections.  And, guess what, Connecticut? "Congratulations.  Your rates are lower." But really only marginally.  Because the other takeaway is this -- remove the variables and health insurance costs what it costs. And so far, there's not a whole lot of variation.