Insurance subsidized for 172,000 Virginians - Roanoke Times: News

Insurance subsidized for 172,000 Virginians

The health and human services secretary says Virginians are paying about $66 a month under the Affordable Care Act.

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Posted: Wednesday, June 18, 2014 10:34 pm

Virginians who purchased subsidized health insurance through the Affordable Care Act are paying an average monthly premium of $66 for the most popular plan, according to data released Wednesday.

That’s an 80 percent discount on coverage that would have cost an individual $338 before the subsidies.

The special rates — available through an online marketplace to people whose incomes place them between the Federal Poverty Guidelines ($11,490 for an individual, $23,550 for a family of four) and up to four times that level — were analyzed in a report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“What we’re finding is that the Marketplace is working for Virginians,” HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell said in a prepared statement. “Consumers have more choices, and they’re paying less for their premiums.”

Critics remain unconvinced, arguing that subsidized insurance and other provisions of the federal health care law will only drive up costs.

In Virginia, there’s strong legislative opposition to a proposed expansion of Medicaid that would cover people too poor to qualify for subsidies through the marketplace.

The 28-page report released Wednesday contains a state-by-state analysis of the costs of coverage under a law intended to make heath care affordable for all Americans.

About 216,000 people in Virginia signed up for subsidized insurance this year, the first time it became available through sweeping legislation passed by Congress in 2010.

Slightly more than 80 percent of them received financial assistance. The lower the income within that bracket, the higher the subsidy.

The difference between what an individual pays and the full cost of insurance will be covered by federal funds.

On the marketplace, consumers can select from plans offered by private insurance companies. Different coverage options are available at bronze, silver, gold and platinum levels.

The $66 average premium cited in the government’s study was for a silver plan, the most popular in Virginia and nationwide. According to an HHS report in May, 65 percent of enrollees selected that plan.

Across all plans, 73 percent of enrollees in Virginia will pay monthly premiums of $100 or less, and 48 percent will owe $50 or less after the subsidies are calculated.

The rates in Virginia are slightly less than the national average.

It will likely be several years before it’s known whether the Affordable Care Act will achieve its goal of providing coverage to nearly all of the uninsured population of the U.S. — and how much that will cost for all health care consumers.

One challenge will be to make sure that enough young and healthy people obtain insurance in order to help pay for the treatment of the older and usually sicker population, according to David Hogberg, a health policy analyst for the National Center for Public Policy Research, a conservative think tank.

The popularity of silver plans suggests that many people seeking subsidized coverage have medical problems that exceed the norm, according to the NCPPR.

“That means that the exchanges are likely headed for a death spiral,” Hogberg said in a statement.

The overview of prices released Wednesday covers only the 36 states, including Virginia, that are using the federal website to sell private insurance plans. The remaining states are using their own systems.

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