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    California Unveils Health Plans to Mixed Reactions

    July 10, 2013 -- California, the first state to set up a health insuranceMarketplace under the Affordable Care Act, has chosen the state’s health plans and announced proposed rates.

    Both the insurance plan selection and rates are subject to final approval by state regulators.

    Since the plans were picked in late May, some experts have praised the progress in California while others have predicted ''rate shock." On a swing through the state to promote the sweeping health care reform law, President Barack Obama lauded California's efforts at creating a state-operated Marketplace (also called an Exchange) and urged the uninsured to sign up for the new insurance options starting Oct. 1.

    About 5.3 million of the state’s 38 million residents are expected to be eligible for coverage through the Marketplace, known as Covered California. Of those, 2.6 million are expected to be eligible for subsidies to help cover the cost.

    California's Chosen Companies

    The 13 companies that will participate in the health insurance Exchange for individual plans include a mix of large and small companies:

    • Alameda Alliance for Health
    • Anthem Blue Cross of California
    • Blue Shield of California
    • Chinese Community Health Plan
    • Contra Costa Health Plan
    • Health Net
    • Kaiser Permanente
    • L.A. Care Health Plan
    • Molina Healthcare
    • Sharp Health Plan
    • Valley Health Plan
    • Ventura County Health Care Plan
    • Western Health Advantage

    Most companies will offer four “metal” levels of plans: bronze, silver, gold, and platinum. The platinum plans cover the largest share of expected medical costs, and they also cost the most, according to Anne Gonzales of Covered California.

    Platinum plans are expected to pay about 90% of costs, with the consumer’s share about 10%. Under the gold plans, the ratio is 80% to 20%. For silver, it’s 70%/30%. And for bronze plans, which are the least expensive, it's 60%/40%. Not every company offers all four tiers in all of the 19 rating regions of the state.

    Catastrophic coverage, for people younger than 30, also will be available.

    In the more populated areas, people will have as many as five or six insurance companies to choose from, according to Covered California. In rural areas, people will have a choice of two or three companies.

    The number of companies offering plans creates sufficient choice, said Linda Blumberg, PhD, senior fellow at the Urban Institute's Health Policy Center. It’s important to have a range of options, she said, adding that, "I think that's clearly what has happened in California."

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