Southwest Georgia to see among highest health plan rates

ALBANY — For at least some age groups, available data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services indicates that Southwest Georgia may be see the highest cost for qualified health plans in the state when the open enrollment for the marketplace created under the Affordable Care Act opens up on Tuesday.

A report released Wednesday by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) finds that, in Georgia, consumers will see increased competition in the market place, with consumers able to choose from an average of 50 health plans in the marketplace.

The report is broken down by geographical area, with 16 such areas in the state of Georgia. Plans in the marketplace are categorized as “platinum,” “gold,” “silver” or “bronze.” Young adults will also have the option of purchasing a “catastrophic” plan, increasing their number of choices.

Rating Area 1 includes 12 counties in Southwest Georgia, including those in the Albany metropolitan statistical area. Charts can be compiled based on an individual’s age, and one such chart shows there will be a total of 15 qualified health plans — including one catastrophic plan, six bronze plans, five silver plans and three gold plans — available to a 21-year-old living in Southwest Georgia. The lowest catastrophic plan cost will be $246.19, while the cheapest bronze and silver plans will be $291.30 and $360.61, respectively. The lowest gold plan cost will be $462.74.

For a person of the same age living in Rating Area 3, which includes more than a dozen counties in the metro Atlanta area, there are a total of 73 plans — including five catastrophic plans, 24 bronze plans, 25 silver plans, 16 gold plans and three platinum plans. The lowest catastrophic plan will cost $121.26, while the lowest bronze and silver plans will be $158.03 and $179.20, respectively. The cheapest gold plan for 21-year-olds in those counties will be $204.40.

The same chart shows the minimum catastrophic, silver and gold rates in Georgia for a 21-year-old will be the prices for the metro Atlanta area. The minimum bronze rate will be $156.15 in Rating Area 2, which also includes several counties in north Georgia.

In Georgia, the average premium for the lowest-cost silver plan will be $304 and for the lowest cost bronze plan it will be $265. The average premium nationally for the second lowest cost silver plan will be $328 before tax credits, or 16 percent below projections based off of Congressional Budget Office estimates. Officials with HSS say about 95 percent of uninsured people eligible for the marketplace live in a state where their average premium is lower than projections, and states with the lowest premiums have more than twice the number of insurance companies offering plans than states with the highest premiums.

Tuesday marks the beginning of a six-month long open enrollment period that will run through March 31, 2014. Coverage begins as early as Jan. 1 for those who sign up on or before Dec. 15.

About 60 percent of the individuals who are uninsured today will be able to find coverage for $100 or less per month in the marketplace taking into account premium tax credits and Medicaid coverage, officials with HHS say.