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Quinn hints at lower-than-expected health insurance rates

Gov. PQuinn

Gov. Pat Quinn

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Updated: October 26, 2013 6:27AM

Though he did not get specific, Gov. Pat Quinn on Tuesday gave a vague sense of what Illinoisans can expect to be offered for health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act.

Quinn said that rates that will be offered through the Illinois Health Insurance Marketplace are more than 25 percent below what the U.S. Health and Human Services had estimated.

That works out to 95 percent of Illinois residents having access to at least 34 rates that will be as low as $120 per month for a 25-year-old in Chicago, Quinn said.

But more specifics could not be given, Quinn said, because Illinois is still awaiting approval for the 165 health plans that are expected to be offered by eight insurers as options in Illinois’ marketplace. The federal government is not expected to approve those rates until closer to Oct. 1, when people can begin perusing the online marketplace and start enrolling in health plans.

The state has also repeatedly turned down attempts by the Chicago Sun-Times and other news organizations to get more information about the health insurance plans’ costs. Unlike some other states, Illinoisans’ rates remain a mystery.

Quinn, though, said, “I am happy to say that starting in October, Illinois residents will be able to select a plan that is affordable and meets the health care needs of their families. The number and quality of affordable health plans that will be offered through the Illinois Marketplace is impressive.”

Health insurance plans that will be offered through the marketplace will be categorized as bronze (lowest cost), silver, gold or platinum (highest cost). All plans are required to carry what’s considered “essential health benefits,” such as maternity benefits and prescription drugs. Bronze plans, though, would have lower premiums but higher out-of-pocket costs such as co-pays.

Quinn said the lowest proposed monthly rate for a bronze plan for a 40-year-old would be $152 in Chicago or $163 in Peoria and for a 60-year-old consumer, it would be $323 in Chicago or $346 in Peoria.

That doesn’t take into account the subsidy that some people are supposed to get. Individuals and families with incomes between 133 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level are supposed to receive subsidies on a sliding scale if they get insurance through the marketplace. For instance, 40-year-old parents of two children making $60,000 could be eligible for a subsidy that would bring their monthly cost to $234 in Chicago or $150 in Peoria.

It’s impossible to make an apples-to-apples comparison between the new plans and the ones that existed before from these insurers, because all the plans are essentially new insurance products. The new insurance products reflect many new changes in insurance regulation that weren’t in effect previously, such as requiring essential health benefits, the Kaiser Family Foundation noted.

And though Jim Duffett, executive director of Campaign for Better Health Care, said we’ll have to wait until Oct. 1 to get a full picture of costs, he said Illinois residents should feel positive about these numbers, because it puts to rest the “doom and gloom” predictions.

“Rate shock is now a bunch of rate crock,” Duffett said.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) both issued statements saying they were pleased with the announcements that proposed health plans in Illinois had come in lower than expected.

“As Congress debates whether or not to defund Obamacare, every member of our Congressional delegation should look at today’s news and carefully consider whether we should return to the days of exploding heath care costs, insurance companies denying essential coverage and working families and seniors left out in the cold,” Sen. Durbin said. “I support the President’s health care reform.


Twitter: @MonifaThomas1

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