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Health insurance to rise 41% under health law, Ohio officials say

Numbers don’t take into account that most Ohioans will be eligible for discounts.

The Ohio Department of Insurance expects Ohioans purchasing health insurance next year through the new insurance exchange will pay 41 percent more on average than they did in 2013, but the estimate doesn’t include discounts available to most Ohioans eligible for coverage.

Department officials project insurance companies’ cost to insure Ohioans on the exchange, an online marketplace where consumers can compare and purchase health insurance plans, to increase 83 percent on average over 2013.

The department compared a 2012 report of Ohio premiums from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners to plans being offered on the exchange created by the Affordable Care Act. The study found individual plan premiums purchased through the exchange are expected to increase from an average $236.29 per month to $332.58 in 2014, while exchange plans for small businesses will increase from on average $341.03 per month to $401.99 in 2014.

“These kinds of significant costs increases are bad for job creation and why the governor and I continue to call for the repeal and replacement of this flawed law with reforms that improve access by lowering costs,” Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor said in a statement. Taylor, a Republican, oversees the Department of Insurance and is a staunch opponent of the Affordable Care Act.

The numbers released by state officials don’t take into account that most individuals shopping the exchange will be eligible for subsidies and tax credits or for Medicaid if Ohio chooses to extend the qualification to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. The feds estimate 1.3 million Ohioans — 14 percent — are uninsured and will be eligible for coverage on exchanges. Of those, 94 percent will be eligible for tax credits and subsidies reducing the premiums they pay.

Ohio consumer health advocates warn the numbers are intended to put a negative spin on Obamacare while ignoring its benefits. The department’s premium estimates come one day after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a fact sheet touting the successes and future benefits of the law.

“It’s sad for Ohioans that the Department of Insurance is trying to keep from people the good news about new options for affordable insurance for the exchange with a misleading release such as this,” said Cathy Levine, co-chairperson of Ohio Consumers for Health Coverage, which supports more access to affordable health care and has advocated for more transparency from the department.

Brian Rothenberg, executive director of liberal group ProgressOhio, said the state estimates go against what’s been seen in other big states and excluding the subsidies “makes no sense” if the goal is to enroll people in plans.

“She shouldn’t announce rates without illustrating what that means for real people benefiting from tax credits that can be substantial in some moderate income categories,” Rothenberg said.

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-West Chester Twp., pounced on the study and said House Republicans will continue to work toward dismantling Obamacare.

“It’s time to repeal the law and take a step-by-step approach to health care reform that begins with lowering costs and protecting jobs,” Boehner said in a statement.

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