HHS: Exchange premiums lower than expected

Report only focuses on low-cost plans in each state, omitting rates for all plans

The Obama administration has released for the first time information about the average premiums for individual plans sold through government-run health insurance exchanges. Although administration officials highlighted the report's findings, some industry experts complained the report is inconclusive.

The report, released by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services on Wednesday, showed 95 percent of consumers live in states where average premiums will be lower than previously projected. Premiums across the country should be about 16 percent less expensive than expected, with an average $328 monthly premium for a mid-level silver plan.

HHS officials also emphasized that 95 percent of consumers will be able to choose from at least two insurers in the exchange and will have an average choice of 53 plans sold on the exchange.

"About one in four of these insurance companies is offering health plans in the individual market for the first time in 2014, a sign of healthy competition," Gary Cohen, director of the HHS Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, told reporters, according to the New York Times.

The problem, however, is the report doesn't outline specific rate information beyond the examples offered or compare new premium costs to existing rates, leaving many consumers in the dark about potential prices, Politico reported. "There are literally no comparisons to current rates," American Action Forum President Douglas Holtz-Eakin told Forbes.

HHS purposefully excluded rates for all plans on the exchanges, choosing instead to focus on the least expensive premiums in each state, because "consumers are expected to shop for low-cost plans," the report said.

To learn more:
- here's the HHS report (.pdf)
- read the New York Times article
- see the Politico article
- check out the Forbes article

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