ObamaCare premiums cheaper than expected, says White House

The Obama administration released some rate information Wednesday for the healthcare plans sold through ObamaCare, saying the rates came in 16 percent cheaper than expected.

The White House was eager to tout the rate information, which it released just a week before the window opens to begin enrolling in coverage through the law's new insurance marketplaces.

On Tuesday, President Obama urged the uninsured to ignore the fierce political debate over the healthcare law and see for themselves next week how much they would have to pay for coverage.

Premiums will vary from state to state and will change even more depending on factors such as smoking status, age and geography within the state. 

But on average, across the 36 states where the federal government is running the insurance marketplaces, premiums next year will be 16 percent lower than expected, the Health and Human Services Department said in a report.

For a 27-year-old consumer in one of those states, the premium for a bare-bones catastrophic plan would be $129 per month; the cheapest traditional plan would carry a premium of $163.

But most consumers who buy insurance through the new marketplaces won't pay for the full premium themselves. Low-income consumers will receive tax subsidies to help cover the cost of their premiums.

Once the tax credits are applied, the average monthly premium for a young adult falls below $100 for a cheap policy.

A 27-year-old making $25,000 per year would pay $83 per month for the cheapest "bronze" level plan in Texas, HHS said. The same 27-year-old would pay $96 in Florida.

In some cases, the credits will cover the entire premium, making healthcare essentially free for the consumer.

Although the premiums beat expectations, some consumers — particularly the young and healthy — will still pay more for an individual policy next year than they would now. 

Gary Cohen, the director of the HHS office handling most of the implementation effort, said those comparisons should take into account the more generous coverage consumers will generally get from ObamaCare plans.

“The health insurance people will be buying will actually cover them," Cohen said. "There have been a lot of products on the market where people thought they had insurance but then it didn’t cover hospitals, for example.”