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Health Care Reform:

Health Insurance & Affordable Care Act

Premiums Under Obamacare Run the Gamut

By Randy Dotinga

Reviewed by Lisa Zamosky

WebMD Health News

Aug. 15, 2013 -- As the Oct. 1 launch of the new health insurance Marketplaces draws near, states are beginning to release the premiums that some Americans will pay starting in 2014. Depending on who you talk to, the numbers are great -- or grim -- and everything in between.

Officials in Ohio are warning that rates for people with individual plans will skyrocket by 41%. But critics say the numbers are misleading. In California, officials touted lower-than-expected premiums in its Marketplace, but some people will get socked with big increases. 

In a word, it's complicated. But "in the big picture, we do have a good clue now where things stand," says Uwe Reinhardt, PhD, during a webinar sponsored by the Alliance for Health Reform. Reinhardt is an economics and health policy professor at Princeton University.

Yes, premiums will go up for individuals in some states. But consumers may get a better package of benefits, and smaller deductibles and copays. And some will receive financial aid to help them pay for coverage. 

"What's being offered now can be very incomparable with what was offered before," says Linda Blumberg, PhD. She is a senior fellow at The Urban Institute, a think tank in Washington, D.C.

Under the Affordable Care Act, signed into law in 2010, each state must have a health insurance Marketplace, also called an Exchange, in place by Oct. 1 for coverage starting Jan. 1, 2014. Most Americans will be required to have health insurance starting Jan. 1.

It’s not clear how many people will get insurance through the Marketplaces. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 25 million people in the U.S. will gain coverage over the next decade because of the Affordable Care Act.

Here are four things people should know about the new Marketplace premiums:

1. Despite all the hoopla, most people won't be affected.

At issue are the new Marketplaces that will provide coverage in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., as of Jan. 1. The Marketplaces will provide access to coverage from private insurance companies to people who are uninsured, people who buy insurance on the individual market, and people who work for a small company that wishes to provide coverage.

"Most Americans who now have coverage will probably not be dealing with the Exchanges," says Ed Howard, executive vice president of the Alliance for Health Reform. "If you get coverage through your employer and it's a substantial enterprise, you'll continue to get coverage through your job. You won't touch the Exchanges."

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