Rhode Island health exchange releases plan rates and details

Rhode Island’s state-run health benefits marketplace released the monthly premiums Tuesday for the 28 plans it will offer for individuals and small businesses under the federal health care overhaul.

HealthSource RI Director Christine Ferguson released the rates for the 12 individual and 16 small group plans during a meeting of the advisory board for the marketplace, known as an exchange.

Three providers — Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, UnitedHealthcare and Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island — are selling plans on the exchange for 2014. Enrollment opens Oct. 1.

Most Americans will be required to have health insurance as of Jan. 1 under the Affordable Care Act, or pay a penalty. But even once the exchange is up and running, the majority of people in Rhode Island with insurance will experience no change in the way they get it.

The rates released Tuesday show the monthly premium for a 25-year-old ranges from $167 for a so-called bronze Blue Cross plan to $283 for a gold plan. For a 45-year-old, the monthly premium ranges from $240 for a bronze plan to $408 for a gold plan. Copayments, co-insurance and deductibles vary.

Individuals with annual incomes less than about $46,000 and families of four with incomes less than about $94,000 will be available for federal tax credits to lower the costs.

Ferguson said at a news briefing that it’s difficult to compare plan costs for 2014 with current plans because so much has changed under the Affordable Care Act. But she said the exchange is designed to offer more choice, more price predictability and greater transparency.

She highlighted one new feature of the exchange: Rather than picking a single plan for all employees, small businesses will be able to select a plan and a contribution level, then let workers choose among several plans on the exchange to find the one that best fits their needs.

Overall, the aim of the health overhaul is to vastly expand coverage, improve health, make care more efficient and save money.

“If employers really see the value of this, I think you’ll see much faster change in the system,” Ferguson said. “That’s going to bode well for providers and consumers.”

About 124,000 people are currently uninsured in Rhode Island in a population of just over 1 million. A recent report from the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation estimates the number will drop to about 68,000 after the federal overhaul is fully implemented.

Between 70,000 and 100,000 people are expected to get coverage through the exchange by the end of next year.

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