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Tax credits lower health plan premiums

Ohioans selecting the most popular plans in Ohio’s federally run health insurance marketplace paid an average monthly premium of $111 after federal tax-credit subsidies were calculated, according to a new report Tuesday from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The average applied to more than 92,000 Ohioans who signed up for Silver-tiered health plans, which are required to cover at least 70 percent of medical costs under the guidelines of the Affordable Care Act and accounted for more than 60 percent of total enrollment in Ohio’s marketplace.

More than 154,000 Ohioans signed up for private health plans in the marketplace this year, choosing from plans in the marketplace separated into four metal levels — Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum — based on the amount of coverage they provide.

Overall, about 85 percent of Ohio enrollees were eligible for some form of government subsidy in the marketplace, regardless of plan type, and more than half of Ohioans who selected marketplace plans with tax credits had premiums of $100 a month or less, according to HHS.

Monthly premiums for all Ohio marketplace plans with tax credits dropped about 67 percent from an average of $372 before subsidies were added, HHS said.

“What we’re finding is that the marketplace is working for Ohioans. Consumers have more choices, and they’re paying less for their premiums,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell, who replaced former secretary Kathleen Sebelius after the disastrous roll-out of federal online marketplaces in 36 states.

And with at least four more insurers asking to join Ohio’s marketplace next year, rate increases are likely to be held in check by insurers who don’t want to lose customers to lower-priced competitors, said John Bowblis, a health economist at Miami University.

“As time goes on, and the more competitive the marketplace becomes, the smaller the premium increases will be,” Bowblis said.

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