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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

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9/28/2013 2:40:00 PM
Government Report: Obamacare premiums in Arizona among lowest in nation
Kristin Fields holds her then-18-month-old daughter, Leah, in December 2012 as Maricopa County Department of Public Health nurse Pearl Napa administers vaccines at a clinic in Glendale. (Cronkite News Service photo by Danielle Verbrigghe)
Kristin Fields holds her then-18-month-old daughter, Leah, in December 2012 as Maricopa County Department of Public Health nurse Pearl Napa administers vaccines at a clinic in Glendale. (Cronkite News Service photo by Danielle Verbrigghe)

Thoughts from the Verde Valley
Ben Bueler, owner/operator of Bueler Funeral Home
"Since we're a small business, it won't affect us too much. But it will affect our employees. That bugs me. We can't get government aide. It puts us in a tough position. I'll be forced to buy a medical plan. But we can't afford it. I thought it was supposed to be the "affordable' plan."

Debbie Lake, Tidy Touch of Verde Valley
"I have health insurance [through my husband]. But I have PCIP. As of Dec. 31, it is null and void."

Dawn Waltman, Verde Valley Olive Oil Traders
"Right now, my husband and I have been looking on the Internet to find out what we need. We don't have any health care for ourselves."

Tom Shandera, realtor, Montezuma Realty
"Other than taking money out of the pockets of our buyers ..."

Gail Cronin, general manager, Crusty's Pizza
"I don't think it's going to affect us. But I think it's a great plan. Everyone needs insurance. Everyone should be getting it. I know it's not the most popular plan."

Ranney Moss, owner of Adventures Unlimited Books and Gifts
"I have Medicare...one of my employees is a veteran, so he has government insurance, and the other one is retired also. We're all set."

Janell Mathews, employee at Bueler Funeral Home
"Implementing alternative forms, more herbal medicines, rather than what pharmaceutical companies are forcing down our throats. Traditional medicine is what the earth has given us."

Valentino Cisneros, owner of Valentino Heating and Cooling
"I think it's a good idea. Everyone should have insurance."

--VVN reporters Bill Helm and Yvonne Gonzalez


By Chad Garland
Cronkite News Service

WASHINGTON - Arizona residents will be offered health-insurance plans with some of the lowest premiums in the country when federal insurance marketplaces begin open enrollment Tuesday, Oct. 1, under the Affordable Heathcare Act known as Obamacare, the government stated Wednesday.

The report by the Department of Health and Human Services said Arizona's premiums were as low as fourth-lowest, and no worse than 12th-cheapest, when different policy levels were compared among 47 states and the District of Columbia.

Eleven states and the District will run their own plans, while 36 states - including Arizona - will have marketplaces managed by the federal government.

In Arizona, the rates ranged from an apparent low of $120 a month for a single 27-year-old on a basic plan to as much as $705 for a 64-year-old with a high-end coverage plan, according to the report.

Those are averages for those groups in Arizona - actual rates will vary based on where a consumer lives, their income and age, and rates may be revised before the marketplaces open Oct. 1, the report said.

No matter their age or where they live, however, consumers in Arizona will be able to choose from more than 75 plans and at least six insurers. The average for the 36 federally managed states was 53 plans and eight insurers, though Alabama and West Virginia will have just one or two insurers and a handful of plans.

"In those states that have lots of insurers competing with each other and are offering many different choices for consumers, those rates tend to be lower," said Dr. Dan Derksen, director of the University of Arizona's Center for Rural Health. "That's what the market is intended to do."

Derksen said the rates might have surprised some people, but he called the report "welcome news" and said the rates seemed affordable for the uninsured.

But critics charged that while states like Arizona appeared to offer more options and low prices, the federal marketplaces will actually reduce choice and increase costs.

"Cost did not go down for consumers," said Christina Corieri, health care policy analyst for the Goldwater Institute. "The only thing that went down was choice."

With a little online shopping, Corieri said she was able to find several insurance plans at eHealthInsurance.com that were cheaper than the report's quoted $120 monthly premium for an Arizona 27-year-old on the lowest-cost bronze-level plan. And that was even with the tax credit that a consumer on the federal marketplace would get.

"For Arizona at least, specifically, you can get cheaper plans today than you can on the exchange, even with a tax credit," she said. "And it's at no cost to the taxpayer."

Corieri said the plan she found appeared to have coverage similar to the marketplace policy, but she could not be sure of an "apples to apples" comparison on things like provider networks because specific plan details were not available Wednesday.

But she said she thinks plans on the federal marketplace are likely to be more restrictive, not less, citing recent reports that insurance providers had narrowed the networks on plans offered through California's state-run healthcare marketplace.

"It's a bad deal for the taxpayer, it's a bad deal for the working poor," she said of Obamacare overall.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) administrator for the region that includes Arizona said federal marketplace prices that are higher than those Corieri said she found could reflect a higher standard of coverage for the marketplace policies. Or, said David Sayen, it could reflect a decision by insurance companies to discourage consumers from buying plans on the government market.

But he noted that consumers cannot get the federal tax credits for health insurance unless they go through the marketplaces.

"If you can come out cheaper with a plan you like better on the outside, that's great," he said. "There's always different prices in different places, but again, this (federal marketplace) is going to provide, I think, the gold standard of prices."

It will also bring price transparency and competition to insurance costs, Sayen said, in the way Medicare Part D brought did for drug prices.

"I salute the eHealthInsurance guys," he said. "We didn't invent this, but we bring a regulatory structure to it that no one else does."

Sayen said that while premiums were "more favorable than I expected," many details about the plans will not be available until Oct. 1. He is encouraging consumers to take their time during the open-enrollment period, which lasts until March 31, 2014, and "kick the tires" before buying a plan.

"You've got to see what they actually have before you know if it's a bargain," he said.

Corieri is already convinced it's no bargain.

"HHS is selling this like, "It's great, we're going to give this away like Christmas candy right after Christmas,'" she said. "But I suspect it's really going to turn to coal in people's stockings when they see that their bill is going up."

Taylor Waste
Related Links:
• Health and Human Services report
• eHealthInsurance
• The Goldwater Institute
• Arizona Center for Rural Health


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Reader Comments

Posted: Saturday, October 5, 2013
Article comment by: Gaia Gurl

@ NUTSO

This is WHO you CITED.

"The Reason Foundation is an American libertarian research organization founded in 1968 that also publishes the magazine Reason. Based in Los Angeles, it is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization that, like other think tanks, produces papers and studies to support a particular set of values. According to its web site, they are "the values of individual freedom and choice, limited government, and market-friendly policies." ~ Wikipedia

Libertarianism . . . a THEORY that has never been implemented in ANY country ANYWHERE, created by 1% CORPORATE owners who don't want REGULATION to INTERFERE with their PROFITS.

http://www.alternet.org/economy/11-questions-you-should-ask-libertarians-see-if-theyre-hypocrites

You are a SUCKA . . . don't worry, I hear there is "one born every day."

LOL


Posted: Saturday, October 5, 2013
Article comment by: nutso fasst

Gaia Gurl's absurd rate comparison reminds me of the 21-year-old teacher and Organizing For America volunteer who claimed to have enrolled himself and his father in Obamacare and saved lots of money.

Major news outlets who got Chad Henderson's story from the official Obamacare Twitter feed got a thrill up their collective leg and swarmed him like flies on feces. He was interviewed and reported on as an Obamacare success story by the Washington Post, Huffington Post, Politico, NBC, and MSNBC. Health and Human Services was supposedly considering using Chad as their official Obamacare poster boy.

Suspicious, someone at reason.com interviewed Chad's dad and made an interesting discovery the major outlets preferred not to know.

http://reason.com/archives/2013/10/04/obamacare-chad-henderson-father

Not surprising, really, that a badly-implemented law based on lies would be promoted by liars.


Posted: Friday, October 4, 2013
Article comment by: Now we know.

Gaia Gurl is a 27 y/o single person, living in the lowest-rate area.

Posted: Thursday, October 3, 2013
Article comment by: Gaia Gurl

By the way, my CONSERVATIVE parents just LOVE their GOVERNMENT run Medicare.

But they HATE socialism, of COURSE.

LOL


Posted: Thursday, October 3, 2013
Article comment by: Gaia Gurl

Nutso . . .

Living up to his name ONCE AGAIN.

Gee, if I can't afford $120 a month, DOWN from about $450, then how the HECK am I going to be able to AFFORD to move?

LOL


Posted: Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Article comment by: Not Quite Right

Interesting to me that everyone has such a strong opinion about how much health insurance costs, yet it seems that no one cares to examine how crooked the actual health care system costs are.

Maybe if medical billing wasn't so completely and totally fubar, medical insurance wouldn't be such a big issue.


Posted: Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Article comment by: Kayo Parsons-Korn

"Imagine you're a person with an ongoing medical condition who can barely afford a plan that only pays 60% of your medical costs".

Imagine that you're a person with an ongoing medical condition who has no insurance at all! I guess you just die.

There are other options too. If you live at 138% of the poverty level you qualify for Medicaid. Lots of people in this state will qualify for that. Young people can also get catastrophic plans that are less than the bronze plans. They don't give you much coverage, but would cover an accident. Plus you have to look at whether your income bracket will qualify you for a tax credit. And tax credits can be taken monthly, not just yearly, so you can reduce your monthly premium and don't have to wait until the end of the year for your tax credit.

Plans differ from state to state and by your income and other circumstances. Go to the government website set up for enrolling and run your scenario for the various different plans. Then you will know exactly what you have to pay and what the plan entails, or if you qualify for Medicaid, or another option besides the bronze through gold plans.

I have always insured myself, but at $240 a month with a $5900 deductible for a perfectly healthy 55 year old who doesn't smoke... I will be looking to see if I can find a plan that has lower monthly premiums.

Check it out!

https://www.healthcare.gov/


Posted: Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Article comment by: nutso fasst

Bill Bassett: $113 per month just "a few bucks?"

Think of all those hourly workers becoming uninsured part timers when the employer mandate hits (many have already taken the hit). Politically-favored groups have received special subsidies or relief from PPACA rules. The reality of "what's in it" has prompted union leaders to demand modifications that favor union workers, claiming the PPACA will destroy the 40-hour work week.

Every bit of 'relief' for special groups will raise the cost for others.

"Mass migration?" Probably not. But that doesn't change the fact that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is a bureaucratic nightmare that will neither protect patients nor make health care more affordable.


Posted: Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Article comment by: Bill Bassett

Just how many people are projected to move to different zip codes for the sole purpose of saving a few bucks on health insurance? Let's see, you would have to quit your job, sell your home, find a new home, rent a truck or hire movers, but if your previous job provided insurance then why move? Nutso, do you envision a mass migration due to health care? Interesting take on it. I notice that the price of gasoline is generally lower in Tucson than Flagstaff. I drive a lot so that would make a difference in the monthly budget but I can't imagine moving to Tucson because of it.



Posted: Monday, September 30, 2013
Article comment by: nutso fasst

According to this article, the lowest PPACA premium for a 27-year-old in Arizona is $120. But according to HHS, the average monthly premium for the cheapest bronze plan (that only pays 60% of medical costs) is $141, for the silver plan (70% of costs) it's $164, and for the gold plan (80% of costs) it's $187.

HHS is downplaying the issue of rate variations that could affect property values and pressure people to move.

Each state is subdivided into different rating areas. Although Florida's average silver plan premium for a 40-year old single male is $328, premiums in its 67 rating areas range from $239 to $352 a month.

Imagine you're a person with an ongoing medical condition who can barely afford a plan that only pays 60% of your medical costs. Imagine that you and many others with high use of medical care move to an area with lower rates. The end result would be that rates for the area you move to would rise accordingly.

The PPACA is the product of lunatics and may wind up driving most of country mad.




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