By Igor Volsky
While some states are reporting lower than expected health care premiums in the exchanges established by the Affordable Care Act, a growing number of Republican-controlled states — like South Carolina, Ohio, Indiana, Florida and Georgia — are garnering screaming headlines about huge premium spikes under the law.
Calculating premium rates is a complicated and tedious task that will vary greatly among states and is open to interpretation and manipulation by both supporters and opponents of President Obama’s health care law. Generalities are particularly hard to draw, as the law will impact Americans differently: the new regulations will lead some younger people to may pay more than they’re contributing now, but will save older and sicker people hundreds, if not thousands of dollars a month.
Still, since Republicans are politically motivated to portray the proposed premium increases in a negative light and the media is far more interested in sensational claims about Obamacare failing, coverage of the new rates often leads readers with the mistaken perception that the law is coming off the tracks. Below is a short guide that will help you identify if someone is misrepresenting how much premiums will increase under Obamacare:
1. Do the premiums account for subsidies?
Most articles about premiums for health insurance in the exchanges relegate information about the Affordable Care Act’s tax credit subsidies to the lower two thirds of the piece, thus presenting the top rates as the actual amount families and individuals will be required to pay.
In reality, the number of applicants who are eligible for sliding-scale tax credits will vary — the credits are available to people making less than four times the poverty line — but the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that out of the 7 million Americans expected to enroll in coverage in 2014, 6 million will be eligible for subsidies. Those with incomes up to 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Line (FPL) will also see reduced the out-of-pocket limits.
Maryland officials, for instance, project that three-fourths of enrollees will receive assistance. In 2014, the average subsidy will be $5,510 and will increase in the years ahead.