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On Exchanges: New York Rates Look Good

By CQ Staff

July 17, 2013 -- On the same day that House Republicans called votes to delay the health care overhaul’s employer and individual mandates, New York Democrat Louise M. Slaughter opened her floor speech with praise for her state’s exchange rates, which show deep reductions for individual plans.

New York is the latest state to release which insurers will be participating in the new marketplaces, scheduled to open for enrollment on Oct. 1, and what they will charge consumers. According to a news release from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, premiums for the most expensive exchange policies—the gold and platinum plans—will be reduced by 53 percent over what individual policyholders paid this year.

“Today’s attempt to undermine the law occurs on the same day that my home state of New York delivered incredible news to New York families,” Slaughter said on the floor. “New York is just the latest in a growing number of states, including Washington, Oregon, and California, where the cost of health care premiums are being reduced because of the Affordable Care Act.”

Cuomo attributed the slashing of current premium rates by more than half to the expectation that “a greater number of uninsured individuals are expected to obtain coverage in the individual insurance market—lowering overall premiums,’’ New York’s high rates have severely curtailed participation in the individual market. State officials estimate that up to 615,000 people will get insurance in the exchanges in the first few years the health law (PL 111-148, PL 111-152) is in effect. That compares to the 17,000 who now buy insurance on the individual market. About 2.6 million New Yorkers are uninsured.

The state’s release noted that the reductions in rates do not factor in the impact of subsidies available to those who meet the income thresholds. That will lower people’s rates even more. The news release did not give exact comparisons for the less expansive silver and bronze plans. They instead said that the “approved rates for the benchmark individual ‘silver plan’ in New York would be in line with (nearly 10 percent lower) the nationwide average previously forecast by the independent, non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) for when health care reform is implemented.”

That also likely contributed to the lower premiums is the number of plans that will be selling insurance in the exchanges. New York’s exchange approved 17 plans. They include: Aetna, Affinity Health Plan, Inc., American Progressive Life & Health Insurance Company of New York, Capital District Physicians Health Plan, Inc., Health Insurance Plan of Greater New York, Empire BlueCross BlueShield, Excellus, Fidelis Care, Freelancers Co-Op, Healthfirst New York, HealthNow New York, Inc., Independent Health, MetroPlus Health Plan, MVP Health Plan, Inc., North Shore LIJ, Oscar Health Insurance Co., and United Healthcare.

New York officials said it was more difficult to make a comparison for the premiums in the small group plans because in 2013, insurers offered more than 15,000 different small group plans that significantly varied in terms of the quality and level of coverage provided. “The approved small group rates, however, are generally lower than indicated by the estimates of other independent forecasters,” Cuomo’s release said.

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