State residents get first glimpse of S.C. rates for health insurance marketplace

jholleman@thestate.comSeptember 26, 2013 

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ERIC HOOD

  • Insurance snapshot The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday released data on the lowest prices for South Carolinians for various levels of coverage on the new Health Insurance Marketplace. All costs are per month ranges for the lowest and highest levels of coverage, but they don’t factor in tax credits based on household income. Age 21: $106.70 to $214.05 Age 30: $162.28 to $242.95 Age 40: $182.73 to $273.56 Age 50: $255.36 to $382.29 Age 60: $388.05 to $580.93 More on the ACA in SC Find archived stories, a question-and-answer guide and more at thestate.com/healthcysc.

A family of four in South Carolina with an income of $50,000 per year would pay $109 per month for the cheapest plan available on the new Health Insurance Marketplace, according to the first South Carolina-specific cost figures released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

That figure factors in tax credits, which will be used to reduce insurance premiums for families of four making up to $94,000. It would be three or four times more expensive if that same family were to find similar health coverage in the private marketplace, according to eHealthInsurance.com.

Insurance on the new federal marketplace might be less of a deal for people with higher income or smaller family size because they would get a smaller tax credit. And any policy will have a sticker shock for the uninsured, who aren’t accustomed to monthly insurance premiums.

Most people will be required to have insurance in 2014 under the Affordable Care Act. Shopping for that insurance on the Health Insurance Marketplace begins Oct. 1.

Most of the data released by the federal government gave a hint at what individual costs will be before tax credits. Details such as home county, family size, income and level of coverage will create a large range of actual costs.

For those with patience, personal insurance costs will be much easier to determine at http://www.healthcare.gov starting Tuesday, Oct. 1. All of the variables, including the tax credit, will be factored into costs on that website next week.

What is clear from the new numbers:

•  Beaufort, Jasper and Hampton counties consistently have the lowest rates.

•  Greenwood consistently has the highest rates.

•  Richland’s rates are only slightly higher than the lowest counties. Lexington’s are higher still, in the middle tier of counties.

•  The difference between counties can be as much as $100 per month, with more variability at the older age groups.

•  The difference between the bronze level of plans (which covers 60 percent of medical costs) and the gold level of plans (which covers 80 percent of costs) is about $80 per month for somebody 30 years old and about $190 per month for somebody 60 years old.

•  You’ll have 27 choices of plans in most counties and 32 in the rest.

The data lists the lowest cost plan by county at each age and at each coverage level. While other states have a platinum level that covers 90 percent of medical costs, none of the four companies on the Health Insurance Marketplace in South Carolina offer platinum level plans.

The lowest rates for a 21-year-old in South Carolina range from $106.70 per month to $214.05 per month before tax credits. The ranges at age 30 are $162.28 to $242.95; at age 40 are $182.73 to $273.56; at age 50 are $255.36 to $382.29; and at age 60 are $388.05 to $580.93. All of those figures are before tax credits, which will offset costs for individuals making from about $11,500 to $47,000 per year.

Every plan is required to cover basic health care costs, but the more expensive plans at each coverage level might offer more bells and whistles, such as more choice in which doctors you can see and discounts on gym memberships.

Premiums nationwide will also be around 16 percent lower than originally expected, according to HHS.

In South Carolina, the average premium for the cheapest silver plan will be $333 and for the cheapest bronze plan it will be $267.

You can find the database at http://aspe.hhs.gov/health/reports/2013/MarketplacePremiums/longdesc/sc.htm.

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