|By Chad Terhune, Los Angeles Times|
On Wednesday, state officials will spell out the details on policies available next year to people buying their own coverage. In
Federal law established four broad plans of coverage -- Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze -- whose benefits vary based on the level of out-of-pocket expenses that consumers are required to pay. A Platinum plan, the most expensive, would require policyholders to pay about 10% of the cost of care, while the Bronze plan, the least expensive, pegs the patient share at 40%.
Now for the first time,
State officials said they took this extra step to help Californians get the best deal when they shop for insurance. Consumers will be able to buy these policies through Covered California, the state-run marketplace for health insurance.
"For the first time, all Californians will be able to make an apples-to-apples comparison of their health plan choices in 2014," said
Consumer advocates applauded
To help Californians get some idea of what they might pay, officials are launching a website, http://www.coveredCA.gov, Wednesday to provide estimates of monthly premiums. The federal law grants premium subsidies to families earning up to about
For example, the state says that a family of four earning
Premiums are just one factor in the health insurance cost equation. Patients must also pay out of pocket for a wide range of medical care.
Under the state requirements to be issued Wednesday, for example, a Silver plan would have a
"Problems occur when government tries to regulate at such a detailed level and they cannot adjust quickly enough to market forces," Melnick said. "It raises costs to consumers and reduces choices. The government doesn't tell us what type of tire to put on our car."
Lee said the state insurance exchange isn't looking to stifle innovation. He said health insurers can seek permission to sell different benefit packages in the state-run marketplace and companies can offer other health plans outside the exchange.
Insurance industry spokesman <person>Charles Bacchi said it's too soon to tell whether these additional requirements will make coverage unaffordable for many Californians. Insurers are preparing to submit their rates to Covered California, and the state expects to negotiate the final premiums by June.
"Our big concern has been maintaining affordability," said Bacchi, executive vice president of the California Assn. of Health Plans. "We will find out in the coming months."
"Many people buying insurance now have a fear of the fine print," said
Still, educating consumers is a tall order for Covered California and other government officials nationwide. State officials said they are trying to learn from the experience of
"There were too many plan options," said
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|Source:||McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|