With the public exchanges preparing to open their phone lines and their Web enrollment sites Tuesday, the Obama administration is getting closer to revealing what federal exchange plans might actually cost.
A health policy office at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has released a report showing what the average cheapest price for individual bronze, silver, gold and catastrophic exchange coverage will be for a 27-year-old in each state in which HHS will be running a "federally facilitated exchange" (FFE).
The report also shows what the starting price for each level of individual coverage will be in the biggest city in each FFE state; what a 27-year-old individual coverage buyer with an annual income of $25,000 and access to exchange tax credits would pay for the lowest-cost coverage out of pocket; and what a family of four with an annual income of $50,000 would pay out of pocket if it did have access to the tax credits or did not have access to the tax credits.
In Texas, for example, the average cost of the cheapest bronze coverage available to a 27-year-old would be $139 per month. The average cost of the cheapest gold coverage available would be $225 per month.
In Houston, the state's largest city, bronze coverage for the 27-year-old would start at $138 per month.
A look at medically underwritten 2013 rates available from eHealthInsurance.com for a 27-year-old who lives in Houston suggests that typical carriers there would now charge that consumer about $100 to $300 for coverage per month, with a majority charging $100 to $200 per month.
The family of four might have to pay $727 per month for silver exchange coverage in 2014 if it had no tax credits. Tax credits could cut the monthly cost of the coverage to $282.
Vermont posted preliminary Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act exchange rates in April, and State Refor(u)m has posted a map showing that 27 states and the District of Columbia had at least posted preliminary rates for their state-based or federally facilitated exchanges as of Monday.
HHS -- the parent of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the agency running the exchanges -- has repeatedly postponed the release date for FFE rate information without explaining why.
Some states have used state public records laws to justify releasing FFE exchange plan information on their own.
Other states, including Texas, have treated the FFE plan rates as confidential information.
HHS officials said the cost of the "second lowest cost silver plan" in the District of Columbia and 47 states is 16 percent lower than what HHS had expected, based on Congressional Budget Office projections.
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement that high prices have shut many consumers out of the health insurance market in the past.
"We are excited to see that rates in the marketplace are even lower than originally projected," Sebelius said.