The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

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September 25, 2013

Federal exchanges' health premiums will vary widely

By Sandhya Somashekhar and Sarah Kliff

The Washington Post

A 27-year-old in Austin, Texas who earns $25,000 could pay $85 per month for health insurance next year, and a family of four in St. Louis with income of $50,000 might face a $32 monthly premium, according to new federal data on health insurance rates under the Affordable Care Act.

The report, released Wednesday by the Department of Health and Human Services, showed significant variation in the insurance premiums that Americans shopping on the individual market could pay under the president's health-care overhaul. Across the 48 states for which data were available, the unsubsidized monthly premiums could be as low as $70 for an individual and as high as $1,200 for a moderate plan for a family of four.

The average national premium for an individual policy will be $328 in 2014, before including any of the tax credits that will be available to low- and middle-income Americans to help them purchase coverage.

Officials say these prices will be affordable for people buying insurance through the government marketplaces slated to open next week.

"For millions of Americans, these new options will finally make health insurance work within their budgets," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said.

Information about how much insurance plans will cost under the health-care law, often derided by critics as Obamacare, has been dribbling out for months on a state-by-state basis.

But the report from the administration, which has been collecting rate information since the spring, offers the first comprehensive look at the effect of the law on many Americans — specifically those who buy coverage privately and not through their employers, as well as low-income uninsured people who are not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid.

Beginning Tuesday, those people will be able to log on to government websites called marketplaces to peruse their plan options, apply for government subsidies and sign up for coverage effective next year. That is when the requirement kicks in that virtually every American carry health insurance or face a fine.

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