Palm Beach County residents who want to sign up for new Obamacare coverage will be able to choose from among seven carriers and 136 health plans.
Prices range from $147 a month for a 27-year-old on the cheapest comprehensive plan to $1,298 a month for a family on the Cadillac or comprehensive plans, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
But the data has one major flaw: It does not account for federal government subsidies. About 90 percent of people who buy a plan through the new online system are expected to get reduced rates, with government help.
Those subsidies can knock hundreds of dollars off a monthly premium, in some cases. So residents will want to go online or get help from a trained counselor or insurance broker to determine how they would actually pay.
Obama administration officials released data files last week after it became clear that website malfunctions on healthcare.gov were preventing people from logging in to see how much plans will cost.
Because the subsidies are dependent on a person’s individual situation – their income and the kind of plan they choose – HHS did not release subsidies.
On healthcare.gov, consumers can input some basic personal information, including income, to get their prices after federal financial help.
Officials offered a glimpse of the kinds of financial help that will be available in a report a few weeks ago.
One example was a West Palm Beach family of four earning $50,000. After the subsidy, the family paid just $18 a month for the cheapest comprehensive plan in the market.
A 27-year-old earning $25,000 a month paid $72 a month, after the subsidy, for the same basic-level plan. That plan would be twice as expensive without a subsidy.
“We are excited to see that rates in the marketplace are even lower than originally projected,” said Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “In the past, consumers were too often denied or priced-out of quality health insurance options, but thanks to the Affordable Care Act consumers will be able to choose from a number of new coverage options at a price that is affordable.”
Under the law, insurers will not be able to refuse to cover people who are already sick. They also cannot charge women more than men, and they are permitted limited premium increases based on an applicant’s age.
The average American will have about 50 plans choices. In Florida there is a great deal more variety, with the average resident being able to choose from about 100 plans.
Plans are offered in five tiers. There’s bronze, silver, gold, platinum. The key difference between the metals is how much of the cost, through copays, etc., the insured party will pay after the premium.
There is also another category, known as catastrophic coverage. That is essentially worst-case-scenario coverage. It isn’t comparable to the metal plans, which offer comprehensive coverage. Even though they are bare-bones, catastrophic plans may not always be the cheapest deal because they aren’t eligible for a subsidy.
Only people under 30 and those with very limited income may be able to buy a catastrophic plan.
Each of the metal plans had to meet minimum benefit standards. They must all cover maternity care, mental health treatment, free preventive services, including contraception, mammograms and colonoscopies, as well as other categories of treatment that were left off many plans sold on the individual market, before the Affordable Care Act passed.
But what makes the metal different is how much the customer has to pay after the premium. In bronze plans, customers cover 40 percent of the costs, through copays and coinsurance. That numbers drops to 30, 20 and 10 percent through the silver, gold and platinum plans.
In Palm Beach County, carriers include Aetna, CoventryOne , Cigna, Humana, Florida Blue, previously known as BlueCross BlueShield, Molina Markeplace, Sunshine Health. Florida Blue has more plan offerings than every other insurer combined.
The company offers two categories of plans. One is called Network Blue and it offers plans with a wide array of doctors and hospitals, but it is more expensive. The Blue Select plans have a narrower pool of doctors and limit acute care to Bethesda and Jupiter hospitals. They are consequently cheaper.
“We think it’s a great opportunity for Floridians who don’t have insurance now,” said Andy Marino, Florida Blue’s vice president of network development. “We’re rooting for the federal exchange to be working more efficiently and allow people to get all the information necessary to actively enroll.”
Now - open enrollment for marketplace insurance plans
Dec. 15 - Payment due for coverage to begin by Jan. 1
Jan. 1 - First day that insurance coverage under the marketplace can begin. Date that most Americans are required to be insured of face a penalty.
March 31 - End of insurance enrollment for 2014
How can I find out whether I qualify for a subsidy and, if so, how much?
Try Kaiser Family Foundation’s calculator at http://kff.org/interactive/subsidy-calculator/
What about Medicare Advantage?
That is separate from the marketplaces you’re hearing so much about.
Oct. 15 - Medicare Advantage open enrollment begins
Dec. 7 - Last day for Medicare Advantage enrollment
Seven carriers are offering insurance plans in Palm Beach County. FloridaBlue offers the most. Plans by carrier are:
Florida Blue –77
Sunshine Health - 27
Cigna – 11
Aetna - 7
Humana – 6
Coventry – 5
Molina – 3