Tuesday, September 4, 2012

When choosing a plan in the exchange, actuarial value just a starting place

A new real-world analysis by the Commonwealth Fund demonstrates devil in the details of the bronze/silver/gold/platinum health plan actuarial value levels designed to guide consumers and small businesses choosing plans in the new insurance exchanges. The metal categories were designed to organize and make sense of confusing choices and combat deceptive insurance industry marketing practices. The analysis describes the very different costs and coverage available to individuals under plans from the same metal category. In some cases a “better” plan based on actuarial value can end up costing consumers more depending on their costs during the year. Unfortunately it is very difficult for most consumers to predict their future health costs – isn’t that why we have insurance in the first place? The study concludes, “actuarial value is a useful starting point for selecting a plan, but it does not pinpoint which plan will produce the best overall value for a particular person.” So much for making things simple. As of January 2014, consumers will be required to secure health coverage under federal law. Individuals eligible for premium subsidies must purchase coverage in the new state insurance exchanges. Leadership of CT’s Health Insurance Exchange, now developing, has been criticized as dominated by insurers and lacking independent consumer representation.

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