Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Negative Spin on Health Reform

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Negative Spin on Health Reform

Article excerpt

State agency's projected cost increases are misleading

The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation recently estimated the costs for uninsured residents seeking coverage under Obamacare. Unfortunately, the agency's delivery reflected the state government's general hostility toward the Affordable Care Act.

The FOIR report details for the first time the prices of health plans that private insurers propose for sale to small businesses and uninsured individuals on the state's federally run online exchange. The exchange, required under the law, is scheduled to launch Oct. 1. Policies will take effect Jan. 1.

The state report said that the price of individual health plans sold in 2014 would rise 30 to 40 percent above the cost of similar plans sold today, and that small-business premiums would rise by 5 to 20 percent.

But those projections are misleading, for several reasons:

- They don't take into account substantial federal subsidies for individuals, based on income -- and for numerous small businesses -- that will offset much of the cost.

For example, individuals and families earning up to 400 percent of the poverty line -- or $45,960 for an individual and $78,120 for a family of three -- will be subsidized on a sliding scale. For some, premiums will be capped at a percentage of their annual income.

A 'hypothetical' plan

- As the Miami Herald pointed out, the FOIR projections "were based on a 'hypothetical' health plan that does not exist anywhere in the state."

The private insurance plans on which the state's model is loosely based have yet to be approved by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Those plans, and the prices, could change before Oct. 1.

Competition may also affect prices. Some of the nation's largest health insurers are among 11 companies participating in the exchange for individual plans. Five companies are providing plans for small businesses. Overall, 308 plans will be offered.

- If insurance rates rise in Florida, it will be an exception to the rule. …

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