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Federal subsidies to isles estimated at $6M

By Kristen Consillio, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

June 19--The Hawaii Health Connector estimates the federal government will spend at least $6 million to subsidize premiums for individuals and families that have enrolled in medical coverage through the state-based insurance exchange.

That equates to an average tax credit of $629 for the Connector's 9,528 individuals and families that have enrolled for health coverage.

The federal government is on track to spend at least $11 billion on subsidies for some of the 8 million consumers who bought health plans through the federally run marketplaces, according to a report released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

"The Connector is glad to see that individuals and families nationwide are realizing the benefits of the Affordable Care Act," Tom Matsuda, the Connector's interim executive director, said in a statement.

"This new study reminds us that the Affordable Care Act provides opportunities for many Hawaii residents to save money on their health insurance."

Nearly 9 in 10 Americans who bought health coverage on the federal government's health care marketplaces received government assistance to offset their premiums. That assistance helped lower their premiums by 76 percent on average, the report said.

In the 36 states that use federal exchanges, premiums that normally would have cost $346 a month on average instead cost consumers just $82, with the federal government picking up the balance of the bill.

Hawaii is one of 14 states that set up its own health insurance exchange.

The Hawaii Health Connector wouldn't say yesterday how many people actually received tax credits locally or what the average premium was.

While the generous subsidies helped consumers, they also risk inflating the new health law's price tag in its first year.

That total does not count the additional cost of providing coverage to millions of additional consumers who bought coverage in states that ran their own marketplaces, including Hawaii. About a third of the 8 million people who signed up for coverage this year used a state-run marketplace.

If these state consumers received roughly comparable government assistance for their insurance premiums, the total cost of subsidies could top $16.5 billion this year.

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"Consumers have more choices, and they're paying less for their premiums," Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said in a news release. "When there is choice and competition, everybody benefits."

The Los Angeles Times-Tribune Washington Bureau contributed to this report.


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