A Sept. 24 press release from Gov. Pat Quinn's office announced with excitement that Illinois' health insurance premiums under the state's ObamaCare health insurance exchange would be lower than previous government estimates.
This statement implies that Illinoisans won't see their insurance premiums go up despite the massive health insurance expansion about to unfold under ObamaCare. But what Quinn is not telling you is how much more insurance will cost compared to today's existing market rates.
Today, a nonsmoking 25-year-old in Cook County can purchase health insurance for as little as $56.90 per month. Under the ObamaCare exchange, however, the monthly premium rate will jump to $120 – more than double what the young person might currently pay. While he might be eligible for a federal subsidy, depending on his income, this does not seem to jibe with the "great news" the governor is peddling.
Once detailed plan information is available, Illinoisans will also need to look at the provider networks the Illinois exchange plans cover. Users will have to see how many doctors and hospitals are actually participating in these networks so that individuals can actually access health care.
For example, in California the health insurance carriers in the ObamaCare exchange are essentially cutting the provider networks in half. Only about half the hospitals and doctors that are available under traditional plans will be available under the ObamaCare exchange plans. The result may be that similar to Medicaid, where patients may be technically insured, but they often have very limited access to physicians under the program.
Is this Quinn's idea of access to quality care?
A true marketplace would offer a wide variety of options to best meet individuals' needs and preferences. The ObamaCare exchange offers 165 plans for the entire state, according to the governor. State officials originally predicted that the exchange would offer 400. This provides yet another example of how the exchange falls short of what we were promised.
Health plans under the exchange are required to offer a federally sanctioned list of benefits as part of a policy whether or not the purchaser wants them. This not only increases the plan costs, it also forces individuals to buy more coverage than they actually want or need.
lllinois buyers beware. Quinn may be celebrating the Illinois ObamaCare exchange – but buyers need to read the fine print.Naomi Lopez-Bauman is Director of Health Policy at Illinois Policy Institute.