Kaiser study finds 'lower than expected' ObamaCare premiums

A leading health policy research organization reported "lower than expected" premiums for ObamaCare's new insurance exchanges in a major study released Thursday. 

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The nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation compiled premium data from the new marketplaces in the 17 states where it is fully available and released a variety of figures showing how much consumers will pay if they choose to purchase coverage individually.

The study is among the first to show in detail what a variety of exchange-based health plans will cost people of different ages and incomes under ObamaCare — a major source of debate between supporters and opponents of the law. 

Kaiser researchers looked specifically at states' largest cities, plus the District of Columbia, and how much young adults, families of four and older couples will have to pay for nonemployer-based health coverage in those areas.

In Baltimore, for example, a 25-year-old will pay $179 per month for the second lowest cost "silver" plan and $115 per month for the cheapest available option, the lowest cost "bronze" plan.

Those monthly premiums drop to $144 and $80, respectively, when researchers assumed that the 25-year-old was eligible for a tax credit based on an income of $25,000 per year.

For a family of four, including two 40-year-old adults, the monthly premium for the second lowest cost "silver" plan would be $683, or $409 with a tax credit based on an income of $60,000.

For the lowest cost "bronze" plan, the family would pay $437 monthly or $164 with the tax credit factored in.

Overall, a single 40-year-old who is eligible for ObamaCare's tax credit could pay a minimum of $97 per month for health coverage in Hartford, Conn., or a maximum of $168 per month in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Researchers with Kaiser wrote that "while premiums will vary significantly across the country, they are generally lower than expected."

The study did not seek to compare expected premium prices under ObamaCare to current prices on the individual market but stated that 15 of the 18 areas examined had premiums below the level most recently projected by the Congressional Budget Office. 

"We estimate that the latest projections from the Congressional Budget Office imply that the premium for a 40-year-old in the second lowest cost silver plan would average $320 per month nationally," researchers wrote. 

"Fifteen of the eighteen rating areas we examined have premiums below this level, suggesting that the cost of coverage for consumers and the federal budgetary cost for tax credits will be lower than anticipated."

ObamaCare requires most people to carry health insurance or face a fine starting in 2014.

While most people receive coverage through their jobs or a federal program like Medicare, some will have to purchase insurance through the new marketplaces, which open for enrollment on Oct. 1. 

The full premium costs for every state exchange will be available on that date.