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SRINGFIELD — With a week to go before open enrollment begins in Illinois' health marketplace, the first details released Tuesday give a glimpse of what some the costs might be for people signing up for coverage.
The benchmark plans being offered in the marketplace will be more than 25 percent below the federal government's estimates, Gov. Pat Quinn announced Tuesday.
"I am happy to say that starting in October, Illinois residents will be able to select a plan that is affordable and meets the health care needs of their families," Quinn said in a written statement.
The state is still awaiting federal approval on 165 health plans expected to be offered by eight insurers.
But the lowest proposed monthly rate for coverage for a so-called "bronze plan" — the level likely to come with lower premiums but higher out-of-pocket costs — for a non-smoking 25-year-old living in the rating area that includes Champaign, Clark, Coles, Cumberland, Douglas, Edgar, Ford, Iroquois, Piatt and Vermilion counties is $166.
For a non-smoking 40-year-old in those counties, it would be $211 a month, and for a 55-year-old non-smoker, it would be $368, according to the Quinn administration.
Tobacco users in those counties would pay higher monthly premiums for the lowest-cost bronze plan: $182 for someone age 25, $253 for a 40-year-old and $442 for a 55-year-old.
The rates listed for Champaign County and East Central Illinois are among the higher ones in the state, according to sample figures from the governor's office.
The state health marketplace is being rolled out to fill a major requirement of the Affordable Care Act, which says nearly everyone must have health insurance starting next year or pay a financial penalty.
The marketplace will offer the uninsured and small businesses an online shopping place to choose plans. It will also offer an opportunity to apply for financial subsidies to help pay for coverage and direct the poorest uninsured to apply for coverage under Illinois' expanded Medicaid program.
Subsidies to help pay for coverage will be available on a sliding scale for people with incomes between 138 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level.
The federal poverty level (at 100 percent) is an annual income of $11,490 for one person and $23,550 for a family of four.
Quinn also announced, for the first time, the eight carriers the state recommended to offer plans in the marketplace:
— Health Alliance Medical Plans.
— Aetna Life Insurance Co.
— Coventry Health and Life Insurance Co.
— Coventry Health Care of Illinois Inc.
— Health Care Service Corp. (Blue Cross).
— Humana Health Plan Inc.
— Humana Insurance Co.
— Land of Lincoln Mutual Health Insurance Co.
Jim Duffett, executive director of Campaign for Better Health Care, said Quinn's announcement puts to rest the "doom and gloom" predictions about Affordable Care Act rate shock not only nationally but in Illinois.
"Rate shock is now rate crock," he said.
Marketplace plan rates may be coming in lower in Illinois because the rates everybody else is paying for health insurance in the private market are inflated, Duffett speculated.
Insurers are "not going to be putting rates out there that they're going to be losing money," he said.
Overall, Duffett said, he's feeling positive that all Illinois residents will be able to select a health plan that is affordable and meets the needs of their families.
"I think as we look across the country, many people will be spending more on their cellphone than they will on their health insurance," he added.
Executives at Health Alliance were unavailable for an interview, but the company released the following written statement in response to the governor's announcement:
"The governor's statements don't really give us enough information to make a true assessment. Once all of the Illinois Marketplace rates are released, we'll be better able to assess whether the plans being offered are more or less expensive than comparable plans today. At Health Alliance, our strategy is to set prices that truly reflect the costs of covering care for our members and administering the many quality and member-support programs we include."
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said the state's announcement confirms the Affordable Care Act will lower health care costs for millions of families.
"As Congress debates whether or not to defund Obamacare, every member of our Congressional delegation should look at today's news and carefully consider whether we should return to the days of exploding health are costs ,insurance companies denying essential coverage and working families and seniors left out in the cold," he said in a written statement.
Most Illinois residents will be able to compare up to 34 plans and premiums side-by-side through the state marketplace, according to Illinois Department of Insurance Director Andrew Boron.
Health plans in the marketplace will be categorized by cost-sharing levels in bronze, silver, gold and platinum, with bronze being the lowest and platinum being the highest cost.
Quinn said Illinois' benchmark rates are not only lower than federal predictions but lower than those in many other states.
Enrollment will run six months, from Oct. 1 through April 1, but for coverage to begin Jan. 1, 2014 enrollment must be completed by Dec. 15.