A week before the Health Insurance Marketplace is scheduled to open, allowing uninsured Americans to sign up for insurance coverage, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a report unveiling tentative premiums and plan choices for the 36 states where the federal government is taking the lead to cover uninsured residents — which includes Tennessee.
According to the report, consumers will be able to choose from an average of 53 health plans in the marketplace. Most consumers will have a choice of at least two different health insurance companies — usually more. Premiums nationwide will also be around 16 percent lower than originally expected – with about 95 percent of eligible uninsured living in states with lower than expected premiums before taking into account financial assistance.
“For millions of Americans, these new options will finally make health insurance work within their budget,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
Individuals and families will be able to choose from a variety of bronze, silver, gold and platinum plans, as well as catastrophic plans for young adults and those without affordable options.
Tax credits will make premiums more affordable for individuals and families. After taking tax credits into account, 56 percent of uninsured Americans may qualify for health coverage for less than $100 per person per month, the report states.
The projected premiums tend to be lower in states where there is more competition and transparency. On average, there are eight issuers participating in the marketplace. Some states have as few as three.
According to the report, there are 59 qualified health plan choices in Tennessee.
The report listed numbers for the lowest bronze, silver and gold plans for a 27-year-old before tax credits, a 27-year-old with an income of $25,000 and a family of four with an income of $50,000.
In Tennessee, prior to tax credits, the single, 27-year-old would pay $119 per month for the lowest bronze plan, $155 for the lowest silver and $205 for the lowest gold. Catastrophic coverage is not available.
For the 27-year-old with an income of $25,000, the plans for second lowest silver before tax credit would be $161 per month. After tax credits, the premium would drop to $145. The lowest bronze after tax credit would be $103 per month.
A family of four could expect to pay $584 per month for the second lowest silver before tax credits, $282 after and $128 per month for the lowest bronze after tax credits.
The average across all age groups and income levels for Tennessee before any tax credits are applied is $235 for the lowest cost silver, $245 for the second lowest cost silver and $181 for the lowest cost bronze.
These average premiums for Tennesseans rank near the lowest among the 36 states. Before tax credits that work like an up-front discount for most consumers, sticker-price premiums for a mid-range plan is $245 per month, well below the national average of $328.
At $192 per month, only Minnesota ha a cheaper average premium.
The cheapest plan offered in Tennessee would average $181 per month, the third-lowest in the country.
The report also gives an overview of pricing and the number of coverage options across the nation. It finds that the average premium nationally for the second lowest cost silver plan will be $328 before tax credits, or 16 percent below projections based off of Congressional Budget Office estimates. About 95 percent of uninsured people eligible for the marketplace live in a state where their average premium is lower than projections. According to the report, the pricing information is current as of Sept. 18 and plan data is still under review and may be revised before the final numbers are available for consumers.
The premiums unveiled by HHS this week don’t include tax credits. The final amount consumers pay will depend on a range of other factors, including income, location, plan type, family size and tobacco use.
Consumers can get help finding marketplace coverage through a number of different resources.
For more information, visit www.healthcare.gov. Spanish-speakers can get information by visiting cuidadodesalud.gov.
Consumers can also participate in online web chats or call 1-800-318-2596 toll free (TTY: 1-855-889-4325) to speak with trained customer service representatives, with translation services available in 150 languages.
-By Denise Williams, Tribune Staff Writer