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Government releases average health care premium prices

By Chelyen Davis

The Free Lance-Star

With just days to go before the Oct. 1 opening of the health insurance marketplaces, the federal government on Wednesday released figures showing average premium prices in states like Virginia that will be using a federally run marketplace.

The numbers, from the Department of Health and Human Services, are based on plans submitted by health insurers. The specific premium costs aren’t yet available.

The HHS report trumpets the fact that the average premium is lower — by 16 percent — than earlier projections from the Congressional Budget Office.

The national average premium for the second-lowest cost silver plan, according to the new report, is $328 a month. Virginia’s statewide average is a little higher, at $335 a month.

The most expensive average is Wyoming, where that silver plan will cost about $516 a month. The cheapest state is Minnesota, where the average cost is $192 a month.

The actual premiums will vary by plan and by region of the state.

Nine health insurance carriers have offered plans for individuals in Virginia, six have offered plans for small group businesses, and 13 carriers are offering dental plans, although some of those carriers are different names for the same umbrella company.

Plans in the exchanges are ranked by a metal-named tier system—bronze for cheaper plans offering minimal coverage, silver for plans offering lower deductibles and more coverage, gold and platinum for more expensive plans offering more comprehensive coverage.

Statewide, the HHS report said Virginia has 47 qualified health plans.

In the Fredericksburg area, people buying exchange insurance will choose from plans offered by Anthem HealthKeepers, Kaiser Mid-Atlantic and Optima.

The average premium cost will be lower for people who get federal subsidies to help pay for insurance.

Individuals with an annual income between about $11,500 and $45,960 — up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level — should qualify for subsidies, according to For a family of four, the income levels for subsidy help ranges from $23,550 to $94,200.

According to the HHS report, the price of the second-lowest silver plan for a 27-year-old in Virginia, making $25,000 a year, would be about $221 a month before tax subsidies. It would drop to $145 a month with subsidies. That 27-year-old Virginian could buy a bronze plan — with less comprehensive coverage than the silver plan — for about $80 a month with subsidies.

A family of four in Virginia with an income of $50,000 would find the average second-lowest cost silver plan costing them $799 a month before subsidies, but $282 a month with the subsidies. That family could buy a bronze plan for $48 a month.

The HHS report says 95 percent of the uninsured nationally live in states with premiums that are lower than expected.

“We are excited to see that rates in the marketplace are even lower than originally projected,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a written statement. “In the past, consumers were too often denied or priced-out of quality health insurance options, but thanks to the Affordable Care Act consumers will be able to choose from a number of new coverage options at a price that is affordable.”

The marketplace opens Oct. 1, when people can shop for and buy insurance online at Coverage under marketplace plans starts Jan. 1. The open enrollment period lasts until March.