What sticker shock? Exchange rates comparable to or less than job-based health coverage

McClatchy Washington BureauJanuary 30, 2014 

— Despite concerns about "sticker shock," marketplace health insurance costs, on average, about the same as job-based coverage - and sometimes less, according to a new study by PwC's Health Research Institute.

State and federal marketplaces also offer most customers a wider variety of health plans than are offered in the workplace, the study found. However, many marketplace plans keep premiums lower by offering smaller provider networks with limited choices of doctors and hospitals.

The analysis studied insurance premiums for 156 million people with job-based coverage in 2013.

It found that the average annual cost of job-based coverage for a single person was $6,119, compared to $5,844 for a similar plan on the marketplace.

The average annual cost for the cheapest marketplace plan was even less - $4,885. That's about 20% less than the average workplace plan.

The study found marketplace premiums ranged from a low of $95 for a 27-year-old to $936 for a 50-year-old.

"Across the board, at every level, average exchange premiums are lower than this year's average premiums for employer-sponsored coverage," the analysis found.

The results could prompt employers to consider moving their employees' coverage to the marketplaces, the report finds.

Factors that influenced coverage costs include federal tax credits that help low- and moderate-income people purchase marketplace coverage and the availability of cost-sharing subsidies that help low-income Americans reduce their out-of-pocket costs.

It's unclear how long the pricing trends will hold up. The health and age of new marketplace enrollees will affect the cost of coverage going forward.

To see the report, go to http://bit.ly/1eAdbvQ

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