Report: Obamacare premiums in Arizona among lowest in nation
Report: Obamacare premiums in Arizona among lowest in nation
By Chad Garland, Cronkite News Service
this 2009 file photo, a White House nurse prepares to give President
Barack Obama a flu vaccination. (Photo by Pete Souza/White House)
President Barack Obama a flu vaccination. (Photo by Pete Souza/White House)
WASHINGTON – Arizona residents will be offered health-insurance plans
with some of the lowest premiums in the country when federal insurance
marketplaces begin open enrollment Tuesday under Obamacare, the
government said Wednesday. The report
by the Department of Health and Human Services said Arizona’s premiums
were as low as fourth-lowest, and no worse than 12th-cheapest, when
different policy levels were compared among 47 states and the District
Eleven states and the District will run their own plans, while 36
states – including Arizona – will have marketplaces managed by the
In Arizona, the rates ranged from an apparent low of $120 a month for
a single 27-year-old on a basic plan to as much as $705 for a
64-year-old with a high-end coverage plan, according to the report.
Those are averages for those groups in Arizona – actual rates will
vary based on where a consumer lives, their income and age, and rates
may be revised before the marketplaces open Oct. 1, the report said.
No matter their age or where they live, however, consumers in Arizona
will be able to choose from more than 75 plans and at least six
insurers. The average for the 36 federally managed states was 53 plans
and eight insurers, though Alabama and West Virginia will have just one
or two insurers and a handful of plans.
“In those states that have lots of insurers competing with each other
and are offering many different choices for consumers, those rates tend
to be lower,” said Dr. Dan Derksen, director of the University of
Arizona’s Center for Rural Health. “That’s what the market is intended to do.”
Derksen said the rates might have surprised some people, but he
called the report “welcome news” and said the rates seemed affordable
for the uninsured.
But critics charged that while states like Arizona appeared to offer
more options and low prices, the federal marketplaces will actually
reduce choice and increase costs.
“Cost did not go down for consumers,” said Christina Corieri, health care policy analyst for the Goldwater Institute. “The only thing that went down was choice.”
With a little online shopping, Corieri said she was able to find several insurance plans at eHealthInsurance.com
that were cheaper than the report’s quoted $120 monthly premium for an
Arizona 27-year-old on the lowest-cost bronze-level plan. And that was
even with the tax credit that a consumer on the federal marketplace
“For Arizona at least, specifically, you can get cheaper plans today
than you can on the exchange, even with a tax credit,” she said. “And
it’s at no cost to the taxpayer.”
Corieri said the plan she found appeared to have coverage similar to
the marketplace policy, but she could not be sure of an “apples to
apples” comparison on things like provider networks because specific
plan details were not available Wednesday.
But she said she thinks plans on the federal marketplace are likely
to be more restrictive, not less, citing recent reports that insurance
providers had narrowed the networks on plans offered through
California’s state-run healthcare marketplace.
“It’s a bad deal for the taxpayer, it’s a bad deal for the working poor,” she said of Obamacare overall.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)
administrator for the region that includes Arizona said federal
marketplace prices that are higher than those Corieri said she found
could reflect a higher standard of coverage for the marketplace
policies. Or, said David Sayen, it could reflect a decision by insurance
companies to discourage consumers from buying plans on the government
But he noted that consumers cannot get the federal tax credits for health insurance unless they go through the marketplaces.
“If you can come out cheaper with a plan you like better on the
outside, that’s great,” he said. “There’s always different prices in
different places, but again, this (federal marketplace) is going to
provide, I think, the gold standard of prices.”
It will also bring price transparency and competition to insurance
costs, Sayen said, in the way Medicare Part D brought did for drug
“I salute the eHealthInsurance guys,” he said. “We didn’t invent
this, but we bring a regulatory structure to it that no one else does.”
Sayen said that while premiums were “more favorable than I expected,”
many details about the plans will not be available until Oct. 1. He is
encouraging consumers to take their time during the open-enrollment
period, which lasts until March 31, 2014, and “kick the tires” before
buying a plan.
“You’ve got to see what they actually have before you know if it’s a bargain,” he said.
Corieri is already convinced it’s no bargain.
“HHS is selling this like, ‘It’s great, we’re going to give this away
like Christmas candy right after Christmas,’” she said. “But I suspect
it’s really going to turn to coal in people’s stockings when they see
that their bill is going up.”
A Department of Health and Human Services report of expected health
insurance premiums when federal insurance marketplaces open Oct. 1 said
Arizona costs were relatively low. But premiums can vary based on
- Family size
- Coverage level, from bronze (lowest) through silver, gold and platinum (highest)
- Potential for tax credits to offset premium
Sample premiums for Arizona below are based on weighted averages from the entire state:
27-year-old with an income of $25,000.
- Second-lowest silver: (before tax credit): $166
- Second-lowest silver: (after tax credit): $145
- Lowest bronze: (after tax credit): $120
Family of four with an income of $50,000.
- Second-lowest silver: (before tax credit): $600
- Second-lowest silver: (after tax credit): $282
- Lowest bronze: (after tax credit): $192 SOURCE: Health Insurance Marketplace Premiums for 2014