Weatherford Democrat

September 27, 2013

Report says Texans have more ACA choices, lower-than-projected costs


Weatherford Democrat

— A report released Wednesday by the Department of Health and Human Services found that in Texas consumers will see increased competition in the health insurance marketplace, leading to new and affordable choices for consumers under the new Affordable Care Act.

According to the report, Texas consumers will be able to choose from an average of 54 health plans in the marketplace. Nationally, the vast majority of 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 people living in states with lower-than-expected premiums – before taking into account financial assistance.

“We are excited to see that rates in the Texas marketplace are even lower than originally projected,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “In the past, consumers were too often denied or priced-out of quality health insurance options, but thanks to the Affordable Care Act consumers will be able to choose from a number of new coverage options at a price that is affordable.”

The new marketplace will be open for business Oct. 1, allowing millions of Americans the ability to shop for and purchase health insurance coverage in one place. Consumers will be able to learn whether they qualify for premium assistance and compare plans side-by-side based on pricing, quality and benefits. No one can be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition.

Oct. 1 marks the beginning of a six-month enrollment period that runs through March 2014. Coverage begins as early as Jan. 1.

Plans in the marketplace will be categorized as “gold,” “silver” or “bronze.” Young adults also have the option of purchasing a “catastrophic” plan, increasing their number of choices.

In Texas, the average premium for the lowest-cost silver plan will be $287 and for the lowest cost bronze plan it will be $211. 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.

Premium and plan options are broken down by state where information is available. For example, the report shows that a 27-year-old living in Texas who makes $25,000 per year will pay $83 per month for the lowest-cost bronze plan and $145 per month for the second-lowest cost silver plan, taking into account tax credits. For a family of four in Texas with an income of $50,000 per year, the lowest bronze plan would cost $57 per month.

In Dallas-Fort Worth, a 27-year old who makes $25,000 per year will pay $74 per month for the lowest-cost bronze plan and $145 per month for the second-lowest cost silver plan, taking into account tax credits. For a family of four in Dallas-Fort Worth, with an income of $50,000 per year, the lowest bronze plan would cost $26 per month. Dallas-Fort Worth consumers will be able to choose from among 43 qualified health plans.

Consumers can get help finding Marketplace coverage through a number of different resources.  They can get more information through HealthCare.gov, or cuidadodesalud.gov. They can participate in an online web chat, or call 1-800-318-2596 toll free (TTY: 1-855-889-4325) to speak with a trained customer service representative with translation services available in 150 languages.

There will also be people in local communities who can provide in-person help with coverage choices. Those will include navigators and other assisters, community health centers across the country, local libraries and hundreds of Champions for Coverage who have signed up to help consumers learn about their options.