Illinois Plans Offer Lower Rates than Other States, 25% Lower than HHS Estimates

As the six month enrollment period for Health Insurance Marketplaces (formerly Health Insurance Exchanges) get set to begin around the country, Governor Pat Quinn released the details of the Illinois Health Insurance Marketplace that Illinois residents will be able to access beginning October 1. On September 24, 2013, Governor Quinn announced that the rates for benchmark plans that will be offered in Illinois are more than 25 percent below HHS estimates. According to the Governor’s press release, Illinois consumers will pay premiums equal to or lower than the rates released by nearly all other states that have released premium rates. Consumers obtaining health insurance coverage through the marketplace also will have access to financial support to help pay for health insurance. Individuals and families with income between 138 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level may receive subsidies on a sliding scale if they obtain coverage through the market place.

report released by HHS on September 25, 2013, titled “Health Insurance Marketplace Premiums for 2014”  concluded that consumers will see increased competition in the Health Insurance Marketplace in state after state resulting in new and affordable choices for consumers. According to an HHS news release, the report’s findings include: (1) consumers will be able to choose from an average of 53 health plans in the Marketplace; (2) the vast majority of consumers will have a choice of at least two different health insurance companies, usually more; (3) premiums nationwide will be around 16 percent lower than originally expected; and (4) about 95 percent of eligible uninsured live in states with lower than expected premiums before taking into account financial assistance.

Residents in all 102 Illinois counties will have access to a broad array of affordable coverage options, and 95 percent of the residents will have access to at least 34 individual plans, according to the press release. Choices for all counties will include PPO and HMO individual and small group plans. The total number of plans offered per county ranges from 57 to 109. Illinois residents may access the Marketplace online, through the state’s help desk, or by visiting a partner organization to obtain in-person assistance. The official online place for consumers to compare up to 34 health insurance plans and premiums side-by-side, get help from an expert trained to educate them about their options, and apply for financial assistance to help lower the costs of the plans is the Illinois Insurance Marketplace. The enrollment period will begin in October and close April 1. For coverage to begin January 1, customers must enroll by December 15.

As in other states, health insurance plans offered through the Illinois Marketplace will be categorized as bronze, silver, gold, or platinum based on how costs are shared. Bronze plans likely will have lower premiums but higher out-of-pocket costs, co-pays, and co-insurance. In addition to these four levels, high deductible catastrophic plans will be available for adults under age 30 and certain other qualifying individuals. All plans provide for the same set of ten essential health benefits as required under the law. Four factors, however, can affect the premium rate of the coverage the consumer decides he or she wants to purchase: age, area of the state where the person resides, tobacco use, and the number of people covered by the plan. Subsidies and tax credits may lower costs for many individuals and families. Under the bronze plan, the lowest proposed rate for Chicago residents is $120 for a 25-year-old, $152 for a 40-year-old, or $323 for a 60-year-old.

Illinois is awaiting final federal approval for 165 health plan options expected to be offered by eight insurers on the Illinois Health Insurance Marketplace, including Aetna Life Insurance Company; Coventry Health and Life Insurance Company; Coventry Health Care of Illinois; Health Alliance Medical Plans, Inc.; Health Care Service Corporation, a Mutual Legal Reserve Company (Blue Cross); Humana Health Plan, Inc.; Humana Insurance Company; and Land of Lincoln Mutual Health Insurance Company.