Some information was released Thursday about how the Affordable Care Act will impact Utah consumers. Utahns shopping for health insurance on the new federal online marketplace will have 99 plan choices. The state insurance department provided an estimate for what these options will cost Utah consumers. They also compared prices to the state’s exchange for small businesses known as Avenue H.
Six insurance companies are offering medical plans on the individual federal marketplace in Utah. On the low end, a 27-year-old living in Salt Lake County could pay as little as $162 a month for an insurance plan that covers 70 percent of medical costs. By contrast, the same plan in the state’s exchange for small businesses would cost $217. In each premium estimate provided by the department, the federally-run exchange was cheaper. State officials say small group insurance is generally more expensive because of the uncertainty in the market and the risk to insurers.
Assistant Insurance Department Commissioner Tanji Northrup shared the data publicly for the first time at a meeting of the Legislature’s Health Insurance Reform Task Force. Lawmakers wanted to know how the rates Utahns are paying would change. Northrup says, it depends on who you are.
“In general, you will see the younger people who are healthy, and so at the lowest rates, they’ll see their rates go up the most,” Northrup says. “For older people who are maybe unhealthy, they may even see a rate decrease, rather than an increase. So it’s all of the premium rates in the market normalizing to kind of a midpoint.”
Northrup says it’s difficult to compare prices before and after the Affordable Care Act because benefits are also changing. Plans will be required to cover mental health and maternity care, for instance. Insurance companies will also no longer be able to deny coverage to those with pre-existing health conditions. The federal insurance marketplace will be open for shopping beginning October 1st. Americans will be required to have insurance by January or pay a penalty.