Feds release premiums for Arizona health plans

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX (AP) -- Arizonans looking to buy health insurance on federally run marketplaces opening Oct. 1 now have an idea what a policy will cost.

Premiums released by the Department of Health and Human Services late Tuesday show the two lowest-cost "silver" plans that pay for 70 percent of medical costs under the Affordable Care Act will cost $248 and $252 per month, on average, before tax credits that will cut the price for lower-income residents. That's substantially less than the national average of $310 or $328 for those plans.

The cheapest bronze plan, which covers 60 percent of costs, is $214 a month, compared with a national average of $249.

Details about the offerings have been widely anticipated, as Arizona and 35 other states that opted to let the federal government run their insurance marketplaces were left to wait for the federal announcement.

About 20 percent of Arizonans don't have insurance, but at least 300,000 are expected to get Medicaid coverage for the poor starting Jan. 1. That leaves about 600,000 people without insurance, many of them eligible to buy it through the exchanges.

Costs will vary by age, area and other factors such as smoking.

The information released by HHS didn't include premiums by age group or a list of insurers offering policies in the state. That information will be available on the federal insurance marketplace website, https://www.healthcare.gov, starting Oct. 1, unless HHS releases it sooner. Policies will take effect Jan. 1, and open enrollment ends March 31.

The agency did break out costs for a 27-year-old person. The lowest-priced bronze plan costs $141, silver costs $164, and a gold plan that pays 80 percent of costs will be $187 a month. That's before tax credits that could pay some or all of the costs, depending on a person's income.

For example, a 27-year-old who earns $25,000 a year and chooses the second-lowest-cost silver plan would save nearly $20 a month with the tax credits. A family of four earning $50,000 would pay $600 for a silver plan without the credit, $282 with the credit.

The Arizona premiums are lower than the national average, according to HHS. The average premium for a 27-year-old buying a silver plan in Arizona is $164, compared with the national average of $203.

The lower costs aren't a surprise because the state has a robust competitive marketplace for health insurance, according to Dr. Daniel Derksen, a University of Arizona public health policy and management professor.

"I was expecting Arizona to come in less than the national average, and it has to do with the competition," Derksen said.

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