First federal analysis finds varied aid in health care law
WASHINGTON — The Americans who qualify for tax credits through the new federal insurance exchange are paying an average of $82 a month in premiums for their coverage — about one-fourth the bill they would have paid without such financial help, according to a new government analysis.
But the analysis shows wide variations among states in the premiums that people are paying for their new insurance, the amount the government is picking up and the proportion who qualify for the subsidies.
The 28-page report by the Department of Health and Human Services is the government's first effort to gauge the affordability and availability of health plans under the Affordable Care Act, now that the first insurance sign-up period has ended.
Federal health officials, who insisted on briefing reporters on the condition of anonymity, acknowledged that analyzing what has happened remains a work in progress. Still, they said, the report's results buttress the Obama administration's contention that the new insurance marketplaces are working.
Under the 2010 health care law, the government this year began for the first time to help pay for private insurance coverage in the new marketplaces for people whose incomes reach into the middle class. The lower the income, the higher the tax credit.
The government has previously reported that 87 percent of the 5.4 million Americans who chose a health plan through the federal health exchange qualified for some financial help.
The health officials said they have not yet analyzed the incomes of people who qualified for the subsidies. But overall, the report shows, the average monthly tax credit this year is $264. Without federal help, the average premium chosen by people eligible for a tax credit would have been $346 per month, and the subsidy lowered the consumers' premiums, on average, by 76 percent.
The result is that four out of five people with subsidies are paying premiums of no more than $100 a month — although that does not include money they might need to spend for insurance deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs.
The report does not include a tally of the total amount the government is spending this year on the tax credits, and the health officials declined to provide one.
The report indicates that many people tried to stretch their financial help by choosing health plans whose premiums are at the low end of the insurance alternatives available in their area. Nearly half chose the very-lowest-cost plan in their marketplace, and nearly two-thirds chose one of the two least-expensive plans.
On average, the analysis found, people buying in the federal exchange had a choice of 47 health plans, offered by an average of five different insurance companies. The level of competition is slightly below what was found in late September, days before the federal insurance exchange opened, when HHS issued a report saying the typical American would have a choice of 53 health plans from eight insurance companies.
As expected, the report found that more competition among health plans tends to lower prices; each insurance company available in an area translated into a 4 percent decline in the tier of plan to which the subsidies are pegged.
In addition to competition, a senior health official said that differences in prices among states was as a result of differences in their hospital industries and how many of the health plans were lower-price HMOs.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Man told transit police the Boston Marathon bomber ‘was my best friend’
- U.S. knew Islamist militants planned offensive in Iraq, lawmakers told
- Fire season expected to accelerate
- Mont. senator’s thesis appears to have been plagarized
- Massachusetts teen held in teacher’s slaying accused assaulting detention center worker
- Head of troubled CDC anthrax lab quits
- Ariz. inmate’s execution apparently botched
- Sketch of suspect released in peacock’s shooting death in Calif.
- Obamacare enrollees strain Medicaid in Oregon
- Can Georgia GOP ‘outsider’ Perdue best Democrats’ Nunn?
- Biden decries voting restrictions in NAACP address