Los Angeles Times by Chad Terhune –
August 30, 2013:
Californians can now see specific rates from competing health plans on a new state-run insurance market set to open Oct. 1.
Covered California, the new state marketplace, launched an online feature Thursday enabling consumers to get detailed price comparisons for their area for the first time.
Previously, the state’s online calculator gave general estimates of statewide premiums without any comparison of different plans and prices.
Starting in January, health insurance premiums will be based on a person’s age and location. Separately, federal subsidies are available to help pay premiums based on household income and size under the Affordable Care Act.
Officials cited the following example Thursday for a family of four in the Boyle Heights area of Los Angeles, ZIP Code 90023.
The parents, 40 and 38, have two children and a household income of $65,000 annually.
Insurers on the state exchange will sell four different levels of coverage labeled as Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum.
Bronze is the lowest-cost option because it offers the least amount of insurance coverage toward a person’s medical bills. Coverage increases from there up to the most-expensive Platinum plans.
In the state’s example, the website recommended Bronze and Silver plans as the most affordable options for the family of four.
The family also qualified for a monthly subsidy of $300 a month based on their income.
Taking that into account, the family’s monthly premiums for a Bronze plan ranged from $284 with L.A. Care Health Plan to $374 a month with Anthem Blue Cross.
The price for a Silver plan ranged from $425 a month with Health Net Inc., to $477 with Anthem Blue Cross, to $495 a month with L.A. Care.
Officials acknowledged that some cash-strapped consumers may bristle at those rates.
“We haven’t made healthcare free,” said Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, at a recent town hall meeting. “We feel good about having a wide range of affordable products. Job 1 is affordability.”
These new health plans also include limits on what an individual or family would pay out of their own pocket for medical care. In the earlier example, the family wouldn’t pay more than $12,700 annually out of pocket.
For the enhanced Silver plans, the family maximum is $10,400 a year.
Individuals earning less than $46,000 a year and families below $94,000 annually may qualify for subsidies. In California, individuals earning less than $16,000 can get coverage through an expansion of Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program for the poor.