The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Compare federal health plan prices online
Technical glitches have left many people unable to get into the federal health exchange website that went live, to much fanfare, on Tuesday.
But while you might be having trouble signing up to buy insurance, you can still get an idea of how much it might cost you.
The federal marketplace website, healthcare.gov, has a list of plans and premiums for a variety of different levels of plans, localities and age groups.
The list likely won’t give you your specific premium if you bought a plan through the exchange—that bottom line varies depending on your own household size and income, since many people who shop for insurance on the exchange are expected to qualify for federal tax subsidies and other federal discounts on premiums and co-pays, based on income.
But the list does reveal that for a 27-year-old single individual living in Caroline County, the lowest monthly cost for a silver plan premium would be $207, before any federal subsidies. If that same individual lived in Stafford County, the lowest-priced silver plan he or she could get would cost $225 a month, and would come from a different insurance company.
Both the Caroline 27-year-old and the one in Stafford can choose between silver plans offered by three companies—Kaiser Permanente, Optima Health and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield.
The Caroline 27-year-old’s $207 plan—offered by Anthem—would cost the Stafford 27-year-old $237 a month.
That’s because Caroline is in a different rate area than Stafford. The Affordable Care Act allows insurance companies on the exchange to vary rates based on geography. Virginia used the current metropolitan statistical areas as rating areas. So Caroline and Louisa counties are lumped in with the Richmond MSA, while Stafford is included in the Northern Virginia rating area (along with Spotsylvania County and Fredericksburg).
King George and counties on the Northern Neck, and Culpeper and Orange counties, are all in rating area 12, which is the state’s catchall for localities that aren’t in an MSA.
A 50-year-old individual in Caroline would pay $353 a month for the plan that cost the 27-year-old $207, and a 50-year-old in Stafford would pay $404 for it. That plan costs a family of four about $700 a month in Caroline, and $800 a month in Stafford.
Again, those rates don’t account for subsidies and other cost help many people will get, based on their income. The law allows for some level of tax-subsidy assistance for people making between 100 percent and 400 percent of the poverty level, depending on family size.
That won’t cover everyone. A single 27-year-old in Caroline making $30,000 a year would be unlikely to get a subsidy, based on a calculator tool on the Kaiser Family Foundation’s website. If he made $20,000 a year, though, he would.
The subsidies are tagged to the silver level of plan, representing a percentage of the cost of that plan. You can buy a different level of plan, but your level of subsidy won’t change.
The metal tiered system divides plans into bronze, which are the lowest price but offer the least coverage, to platinum, the highest-priced plans that also provide the most coverage. Some carriers also offer low-priced catastrophic coverage for people younger than 30.
While the exchange went live on Tuesday—and had 4.7 million unique visitors by Wednesday afternoon, according to its Twitter feed—experts caution that you don’t have to rush to buy insurance there.
Coverage for all of the insurance plans offered through the health marketplace doesn’t start until Jan. 1., and you can buy insurance up until Dec. 15 for that Jan. 1 coverage. Open enrollment lasts until March 31.
A post on the Kaiser Health News website also points out that consumers buying insurance through the exchange should check to make sure their doctor or health care providers are part of that insurance plan’s network.
Chelyen Davis: 540/368-5028