Health insurance policy costs explained

Health care premiums on the federal Affordable Care Act exchanges will range from a low-income, 27-year-old in Louisiana paying $71 a month to a well-earning family of four shelling out more than $900 a month for a better plan.

State-by-state examples of the options people will see in the health care exchanges launching Oct. 1 were released Wednesday in a new report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that touts overall insurance premiums are coming in 16 percent below the original projections.

The Obamacare exchanges will have a six-month open enrollment period, through March, with benefits beginning Jan. 1 for those who buy in this year.

The exchanges will be available Oct. 1 online at HealthCare.gov. The exchanges will be available to those who are uninsured and are not covered by Medicaid as well as those who buy their insurance independent of their employers.

The cost for the average Louisiana resident is a little higher than the national average.

The average state resident, not counting the income-based tax credit, will pay $265 a month for a low “bronze” plan and $356 a month for a low “silver” plan.

A Louisiana family of four making no more than $50,000 in total income could get a bare-bones “bronze” plan for as low as $15 a month after the tax credit, which is the second lowest nationally. That same family would pay $282 a month for a “silver” plan.

“On Oct. 1, people can begin to shop in a way that meets their needs,” said David Simas, special assistant to the president. He said everyone will be able to do side-by-side comparisons of their options for the first time ever.

The quality of the health insurance plans range from “bronze” to “platinum.”

The level of benefits and the share of total costs covered increase with each more expensive plan. Even the “bronze” plan includes hospitalization coverage, while some basic-level independent insurance plans previously offered by companies do not.

The “bronze” plans are expected to cover about 60 percent of a person’s total health care costs, according to the White House, and percentage of costs covered increases with each higher level plan.

This will end the current situation of the emergency room serving as the default health care network for the uninsured, Simas said.

October is just the beginning of the outreach, Simas said, noting that enrollment spikes are expected in December before the beginning of benefits and in March right before open enrollment ends.

Gov. Bobby Jindal, citing long-term cost impacts, has rejected the federal Medicaid expansion that could enroll up to 400,000 additional state residents.

Jindal also has refused to set up state-run exchanges, forcing the federal government to take on the responsibility.

States such as Louisiana, as a result, have fewer companies participating in the exchanges, Simas said. “No surprise — fewer companies engaged.”

President Barack Obama said Republicans are threatening to shut down the government over health care because they fear people will like the exchanges.

“Essentially they’re saying people will like this thing too much, and then it will be really hard to roll back,” Obama said in a conversation with former President Bill Clinton at meeting in New York.

“What we’re saying is, just look for yourself. Take a look at it, and you will discover that this is a good deal for you.”

Even if a partial government shutdown occurs, Simas said, the Affordable Care Act represents mandatory spending, and implementation will continue on schedule.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., was quick to praise the new information released Wednesday.

“This is great news for the 800,000 uninsured people in Louisiana who will now be able to shop for quality … affordable health care in the new marketplaces,” Landrieu said in a prepared statement.

“With an average of 40 different plans to choose from, Louisianians will have greater choice of competitively priced coverage that they can count on when they need it.”

Landrieu also noted that people can no longer be punished for pre-existing conditions, that more young adults are insured under their parents through age 26, that more preventive care is insured and that more of the elderly are saving money on their prescription medications.

Critics of the legislation argue that people will pay more money for bare-bones insurance coverage — the plans in the exchanges include more benefits and, thus, cost more in some cases — and that employers are cutting the work hours of many of their employees to avoid having to offer them insurance coverage.

Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, accused the Obama administration of “twisting” the data in the information released Wednesday.

“According to BlueCross BlueShield of Louisiana, a young family, trying to start their lives, could face premium increases of 211 percent,” Cassidy said.

“The administration attempts to spin Obamacare aren’t going to mean very much when families see their health care premiums skyrocket next year.”

Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, argued the “smoke and mirrors” of Democrats is failing.

“In Louisiana, our young people will be hit especially hard by Obamacare as they can expect to see insurance premium rates increase almost 30 percent,” Boustany added.

“Obamacare overpromised and now under-delivers. As we come closer to the implementation date of Obamacare, the only thing remaining constant is the amount of evidence piling up against this terrible law.”