Latest on the Marketplace health insurance exchange

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

Five health insurers have filed their rate plans with the Arizona Department of Insurance for the Marketplace health insurance exchange beginning October 1. More information will become available in the coming weeks, but for now here is the report from the Arizona Republic. 5 health insurers outline rates for Arizonans under Affordable Care Act:

Paperwork filed by five major health insurers gives Arizona its first
glimpse of how much the Affordable Care Act will cost consumers when
they begin shopping for mandatory coverage next month.

Plans
submitted to the Arizona Department of Insurance signal that average
monthly rates will range from $225 to $334 when insurance marketplaces
launch Oct.1. Filing rate plans were Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield of
Arizona, Cigna, Health Net and Meritus, formerly called Compass Health
Cooperative.

The documents suggest Arizona consumers will be able
to choose from a variety of plans and rates during the six-month
enrollment period, with monthly premiums that will range from less than
$100 to more than $1,700. Those rates are before federal, sliding-scale
subsidies kick in for consumers who earn up to 400 percent of the
federal poverty level
.

[See Subsidy Calculator | The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.]

Some states that will operate their own exchanges have released
comparisons of existing and new rates for individuals and small
businesses. But health insurers said a similar comparison was
problematic for Arizona
because the federal government will operate the
state’s marketplace and the new plans have different benefits and
requirements.

* * *

Meritus, a non-profit cooperative health-insurance plan, filed to sell
plans on the individual marketplace and the Small Business Health
Options Program, or SHOP.

“We heard from consumers and what they
thought affordable was,” said Kathleen Oestreich, CEO of Meritus. “We
tried to position our (rates) in the lower third or the middle third of
the market.”

In all, more than 1 million Arizonans will be
eligible to shop for plans on the federal exchange or get covered by
Medicaid, the government-funded health-insurance plan for low-income
residents. Most people without health insurance must obtain coverage or
pay a fine under the new law.

The five companies submitted plans
that included information such as average monthly rates, the most and
least expensive plans, and the total in premiums that insurers expect to
collect. Health Choice, Humana and University of Arizona Health Plan
also filed plans to join the exchanges but did not file rates with the
state.

Health insurers that plan to sell health maintenance
organization-style plans over the marketplaces are not required to
disclose rates to Arizona regulators, according to Erin Klug, a state
Insurance Department spokeswoman.

All plans sold over the online
marketplaces — both for individuals and small businesses — still must
be approved by Medicare’s Center for Consumer Information and Insurance
Oversight. Those plans have been reviewed, and Medicare is finalizing
contracts with those insurance companies, said David Sayen, regional
administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Sayen
said the federal government won’t make information about the plans and
rates available before Oct. 1, the day consumers will be able to start
shopping for the offerings on HealthCare.gov.

Sayen said that he
is confident the rates — when offset by federal subsidies — will be
affordable for Arizona consumers and that enrollment will start Oct. 1,
citing favorable results last week from a key test of the marketplaces’
data backbone.

“What I see is something that is attractive, and it’s going to work,”
Sayen said. “I am very confident that people in the insurance industry
will put out products that work at a competitive price.”

Consumers will shop for plans across four tiers that will include
bronze, silver, gold and platinum coverage. The bronze plans will be the
least expensive and will cover about 60 percent of a person’s health
costs. Platinum plans will be the most expensive and robust, covering
about 90 percent of costs.

* * *

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, the state’s largest insurer for the
individual market, will offer more than a dozen plans across all tiers
with individual monthly premiums that range from $71 to $1,489. The
average plans will cost Blue Cross consumers $264 before subsidies are
calculated.

Blue Cross Vice President Jeff Stelnik said the
company tailored its plans to appeal to a wide selection of residents,
from cost-conscious consumers to those accustomed to a richer selection
of benefits.

Stelnik said it is difficult to compare new rates
with existing plans because the health-care law requires a basic set of
benefits that do not exist in all current plans, such as maternity
coverage. Also, the law prevents insurers from denying coverage based on
existing conditions and limits how much rates can vary based on age.

Insurers can charge rates based on the type of plan and a person’s age, location and whether they smoke.

“It’s so hard to compare apples to apples,” Stelnik said. “It is so specific to the individual.”

Health
Net spokesman Brad Kieffer said the insurer anticipates “most of the
consumers shopping for coverage on the exchange will be
value-conscious.” Health Net’s individual plans will range from $82 to
$897 per month.

“We are looking at the silver and bronze tiers as where we will see most of our enrollment,” Kieffer said.

Diane
Brown, executive director of Arizona Public Interest Research Group,
said consumers should be careful not to rush into a plan. Arizona PIRG
will encourage consumers to evaluate how deductibles and copayments may
impact how much they spend on health care.

“Consumers may not be aware of how these extra costs add up,” Brown said.

One
way that insurers in Arizona will seek to limit costs is by narrowing a
consumer’s choice among doctors and hospitals in exchange for lower
monthly rates.

People will not be able to check how robust a
health insurer’s network is on the federal government’s website. Rather,
consumers will be referred to the insurer’s website and informational
brochures to learn which doctors and hospitals a consumer could use.

The
enrollment deadline is March 31. Once consumers make a selection, they
will be locked in until the next enrollment period in fall 2014.

Rate comparisons

Company, minimum, maximum, average

>> Aetna, $79, $806, $240.

>> Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, $71, $1,489, $264.

>> Cigna, $114, $1,693, $314.

>> Health Net, $82, $897, $240.

>> Meritus PPO, $131, $1,749, $334.

>> Meritus PPO (catastrophic coverage), $106, $961, $225.

Sources: Arizona Department of Insurance, Republic research

UPDATE: "ObamaCare" is working:
"A new report released today by the Department of Health and Human
Services (HHS) shows that 6.8 million consumers saved an estimated $1.2
billion on health insurance premiums in 2012, due to the "rate review"
provision of the Affordable Care Act, which brought unprecedented
accountability to slow the growth of health insurance premiums."

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