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New York Times: Progress on health care

The New York Times

First Published Jun 20 2014 01:01 am • Last Updated Jun 21 2014 05:48 pm

Americans are finding very affordable health insurance and a wide choice of plans on the exchanges operated by the federal government, according to a report issued Wednesday by the Department of Health and Human Services. The report was based on data from the 36 states in which the federal government is operating health insurance exchanges this year. Comparable data from states operating their own exchanges is not yet available.

Under the Affordable Care Act, people who buy their own policies are eligible for tax credit subsidies to reduce their premiums if they earn less than four times the federal poverty level, which is currently about $46,000 for an individual or $95,000 for a family of four.

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The administration reported that people who bought so-called silver plans, the most popular on the exchanges, paid an average premium of only $69 a month after factoring in the tax credits. Almost half of the enrollees who bought plans of any kind on the exchanges paid $50 a month or less after tax credits. Those are bargain rates by any measure.

Consumers had a reasonably wide choice of health plans. More than 80 percent of the enrollees had three or more companies to choose from, and 96 percent could choose from two or more. A separate survey of enrollees who bought policies on the exchanges or directly from insurers, issued by the Kaiser Family Foundation on Thursday, revealed that 34 percent felt they had benefited from the law. Of those, 49 percent said it had lowered their costs and 45 percent said it had increased their access to insurance or medical care. Roughly a third of the enrollees said the law had not affected them much. Twenty-nine percent said they were negatively affected, usually because their costs had gone up.

There were concerns last fall that some people whose plans had been canceled because they did not meet the reform law’s requirements would end up paying much more for plans with more comprehensive coverage. The actual results for people who switched plans, either because their plans were canceled or because they changed for other reasons, have been mixed. Some 46 percent of plan switchers had their premiums go down (most likely because of the subsidies), while 39 percent said they were paying more, though often for much better coverage.

The survey found that nearly 6 in 10 people who bought insurance through the exchanges were previously uninsured, a good sign that the law’s goal of near-universal coverage may be achievable. Though the system is still new, millions of Americans are already being helped, and every success makes it that much harder for its political enemies to repeal or disable it.




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