Average Prices for New Obamacare Health Plans Revealed

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The insurance marketplaces that are a key part of Obamacare don't go on-line until Tuesday. But the federal government gave the public a sneak peek of what the insurance plans could actually cost. The average premiums in Texas are slightly less than in other states, but that doesn't mean uninsured people will actually enroll.

 

The federal government is setting up the insurance marketplaces in 36 states, like Texas, that didn’t do it on their own.

These marketplaces are for uninsured people only, who don’t get health coverage at work.

Although the government has set the rules for the marketplace, the plans are still private products being sold by commercial companies.

The insurance prices will vary by region and age.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is pleased with the prices, because they came in lower than predicted.

“For millions of Americans these new options will finally make health insurance work within their budget.”

Although the plans are private, the federal government will kick in a subsidy to help pay for it, if your family has a certain income.

The report shows that a 27-year-old in Houston who makes $25,000 a year will pay about $145 a month for the standard plan, after the tax credit is applied.

If that feels like too much, the 27-year-old could choose a bare-bones plan, for only $81 a month.

These are averages though – actual prices will vary by location and the family’s income and size.

As another example, a family of four in the Houston region might find a plan for as little as $52 a month. 

 Obamacare boosters say these low monthly prices will encourage uninsured people to sign up and obey the individual mandate.  

But others are skeptical. Jo Middleton is a Houston insurance agent.

She says some premiums might look cheap up front, but the plans could have very high deductibles and other out-of-pocket expenses.

 “The people that are saying “Oh great, I qualify for a subsidy and I can get it for $58 a month. Those people are not going to have $12,700 probably put aside that they could pay that if something catastrophic did happen in their family. If they did they wouldn’t be qualifying for a subsidy in the first place.”

 Middleton says people may also be surprised to learn that the cheaper plans severely restrict your choice of doctors, hospitals and even pharmacies.

But federal officials say the plans are still a good deal — no matter how sick you are, you can buy a plan.

Before now, insurance plans could exclude people or exclude certain conditions.

Full details on the plans, and enrollment, begins Tuesday. You can visit healthcare.gov on Tuesday to start shopping for a plan.

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Carrie Feibel

Health & Science Reporter

Carrie Feibel is KUHF's health and science reporter. She comes to Houston Public Radio after ten years as a print reporter...