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At ThinkProgress, Igor Volsky has a helpful primer on reading all those "rate shock" stories as states release the projected premium rates under Obamacare. Some states, like Oregon, New York, Maryland, Montana and Louisiana, have all released lower cost premiums than expected, while a handful of others—with Republican governors—have reported huge premium spikes. But, as we've seen in the case of Ohio and Indiana, it's all in the reporting.
Here are the things to keep in mind with these stories:
Does the reported premium include the subsidy that most people will receive to help them purchase insurance on the exchange? Subsidies will be available on a sliding scale to people making up to four times the poverty level. For a single person, that's about $46,000 a year and for a family of four it's about $94,000 a year. So, according to the CBO estimates, of the seven million Americans expected to get their insurance through the exchanges, six million are going to be receiving a subsidy.
Here's a key one: "What is the state comparing the new premiums to and does it break down the increases by the available levels of coverage?" Many of these states allowed bare-bones, high-deductible catastrophic policies that covered almost nothing for dirt cheap. If the state is comparing a comprehensive plan on the exchange to these plans, yes, the Obamacare plan will be more expensive. But it will also actually provide real coverage.
Are they talking about all the plans available? In the case of Indiana, the state reported the average of all the plans—the most expensive "platinum" down to the minimum coverage "bronze" plans. Which is like reporting the cost of houses based on averaging the cost of studio condo and a mansion.
Are they reporting just the premium cost, and the actual premium? In Indiana's case, it turned out they were talking about calculations for "allowed costs," or "the cost of insurance before calculating how much individuals would pay out-of-pocket, because of co-payments and deductibles," which is much higher than the actual premium rate.
Is the state proactively working to keep rates low? Some states passed laws to work with Obamacare to allow the state insurance commission or department to approve or disapprove proposed premium rates. Grants created under the law are available to help states establish a rate review process. The states that really care about providing the best deal for their residents are using it.
Obviously, the Republican jihad against Obamacare is going to bleed over into how red states report the information, and how they implement the law. That's something the media should be aware of when reporting stories.
Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Tue Aug 06, 2013 at 09:36 AM PDT.