Yes, it was a grind last fall, fumbling our way as a nation through altogether new and confusing online health insurance exchanges that were obviously overwhelmed by the attention. We watched in frustration as the clock icon spun interminably, day or night, blocking us even from window-shopping -- never mind purchasing -- the first federally standardized and subsidized health plans for non-seniors on these shores.
But for most of those who persevered, it was well worth it.
According to new figures released by the Department of Health and Human Services, the average consumer who qualified for tax credits on the HealthCare.gov exchange wound up paying about $82 a month for their health plan, or about one quarter of what it would have cost without the help of Uncle Sam.
Feds pick up 76 percent of costs
The administration's first official report card following Obamacare's inaugural six-month open enrollment period covers only results from the 36 states that didn't use their own exchange but instead relied on the federal HealthCare.gov site. About 5.4 million of the initial 8 million policies sold on the exchanges were purchased through HealthCare.gov.
Results from states such as California and New York that launched their own exchanges are expected to fall in line with the federal results, however, because all exchange plans limit what consumers face in premiums by using a fixed share of their income as a gauge -- regardless of which exchange is used.
Based on an average monthly premium of $346, the federal government pays $264, or 76 percent of the total, directly to the health insurers. Owing to their incomes, Mississippi residents received the most federal assistance -- paying, on average, $23 per month for plans averaging $438 per month before subsidies. New Jersey residents qualified for the least help from Uncle Sam on HealthCare.gov -- paying, on average, $148 for plans averaging$465 a month before subsidies.
Utah premiums were lowest
As expected, most consumers purchased mid-range "silver" plans over the more expensive platinum and gold plans and the less-expensive bronze plans. On average, consumers could choose between five insurers and 47 plans on the federal exchange. Premiums varied widely by state, ranging from a low of $243 in Utah to a high of $536 in Wyoming, again on HealthCare.gov.
And, as hoped, results from Obamacare's initial open enrollment seem to indicate that the exchanges are already spurring competition among health insurance companies, driving down the cost of exchange health plan offerings.
Here's a look at who's covered under Obamacare.
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