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13 insurers approved for California's exchange submit low premiums


California has become the eighth state to release detailed information about plans and prices that insurers proposed for its state-run health insurance exchange. And since its 7 million uninsured population is the largest in the nation, the rates provide the most in-depth look at how much consumers will pay when they buy coverage through online marketplaces this fall.

Covered California approved 13 insurers to sell plans on the exchange, a decrease from the 33 insurers that said last November they would seek spot to sell policies online. The insurers gaining entrance to the exchange include Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield of California and Kaiser Permanente.

But notably absent from that group are big name insurers UnitedHealth, Aetna and Cigna that chose not to participate on the state's exchange. The three insurers comprised just 7 percent of California's individual market in 2011 while Kaiser, Anthem and Blue Shield represented a collective 87 percent, reported the Los Angeles Times.

And like Oregon, which announced proposed rates last week for its exchange, the insurers submitted lower-than-expected premiums. Consumers will on average spend about $320 for a mid-level plan in California, which is about $100 less than previously estimated, the Washington Post reported.

Covered California's Executive Director Peter Lee said some insurers pulled out of the application process because they didn't want to meet the exchange's requests for improving care and coverage access. And in some cases, Covered California denied insurers for submitting rates that were too high, LifeHealthPro reported.

Glenn Melnick, health policy professor at USC, said that opting out of the exchange might result in a major blunder for UnitedHealth, Aetna and Cigna. "California is going to be a trendsetter," he said, noting California's size and importance in the reform movement nationwide, noted the Times.

To learn more:
- read the Washington Post article
- see the Los Angeles Times article
- check out the LifeHealthPro article

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