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Enrollees in Individual Health Plans to Gain Better Coverage Under Health Reform

More than half of Americans with individual health insurance coverage in 2010 were enrolled in plans providing less coverage than the least comprehensive plan that will be allowed in the health insurance exchanges created under the health reform law, according to new research supported by The Commonwealth Fund.

The study, published online by Health Affairs, points out that state-based health insurance exchanges, slated to open in 2014, will not offer what the authors dub "tin" plans—health coverage with an actuarial value below 60 percent, meaning the insurer covers less than 60 percent of an enrollee’s medical expenses. People buying insurance through the exchanges will be able to choose a plan with a comprehensive benefit package at four different levels of cost-sharing: bronze, silver, gold, and platinum. Moreover, many individuals will be eligible for premium subsidies to help offset the cost.

The study's authors, led by Jon Gabel, a senior fellow with NORC at the University of Chicago, find that a majority of those now enrolled in employer group plans have far more comprehensive coverage, with less cost-sharing, than people enrolled in individual-market plans.

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