Study: ObamaCare, other health premiums roughly equal

A new study of health insurance premiums under ObamaCare found that they are comparable to or lower than premiums for similar coverage on the employer-based market.

The analysis from global consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) adds to a heated political debate over whether the healthcare law has raised prices for plans on the individual and small group markets.

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In their study, researchers calculated the national average premium for workers ($6,119) and compared it to the median and lowest rates for comparable coverage on ObamaCare's exchanges.

Exchange coverage was found to be cheaper in both cases, at 4 percent less for a median plan ($5,844 premium) and 20 percent less for the cheapest equivalent plan ($4,885).

"Across the board, at every level, average exchange premiums are lower than this year's average premiums for employer-sponsored coverage," the study states.

"In addition, most exchange shoppers have a wider variety of plans than the typical employer-based offering." The study added that exchange-based plans may include fewer healthcare providers as a "tradeoff."

The cost of healthcare has become a political football as Republicans and Democrats watch for evidence that ObamaCare is either raising or lowering prices.

Premiums are especially relevant to the debate given President Obama's promises that they would decrease under healthcare reform.

Last fall, the White House touted lower-than-expected premiums on the exchanges, but anecdotes of "sticker shock" have bolstered criticism of the new system.

For many, higher costs have come in the form of higher healthcare deductibles — an aspect of exchange plans that PwC did not analyze in its report.