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Obamacare overcomes ‘The Voice’

By Jay MacDonald · Bankrate.com
Friday, September 27, 2013
Posted: 6 am ET

If offered the wager, I never would have bet that the waning drama over Obamacare would overshadow the season premiere of NBC's "The Voice," yet that's pretty much what transpired this week, at least among America's post-pubescent population.

But when Capitol Hill's own version of "The Voice" came to a close, President Barack Obama's landmark health care reform emerged victorious over a solo performance by freshman Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who warbled from midday Tuesday to noon Wednesday in a last-ditch attempt to defund the Affordable Care Act.

When even the judges within your own party, including Sens. Mitch McConnell, John McCain and Rand Paul, effectively say you can't carry a tune, it's best to leave the stage quietly. Which is what Cruz eventually did, even going so far as to vote against himself in a unanimous 100-0 chorus to end the workout for his vocal cords.

White House finds something to sing about

Meanwhile, the Obama administration was busy romancing the press corps with a Tuesday afternoon conference call. He shared what would appear to be very encouraging news on revised Obamacare health insurance rates from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. In "Voice" terms, that's like nailing a three-octave rendition of Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" after your competitor just stumbled through Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" -- or, in Cruz's case, the Dr. Seuss classic, "Green Eggs and Ham."

According to the HHS update, consumers seeking individual health plans in the 36 states with federally run marketplaces will have a choice of 53 plan options from at least two (and probably more) insurance companies, at rates 16 percent lower than those originally projected by the Congressional Budget Office. About 25 percent of insurance carriers in the marketplaces are offering individual plans for the first time, according to the administration.

The average unsubsidized premium for an individual on a benchmark "silver" plan -- which covers roughly 70 percent of health care costs -- will be $328 per month, or $3,936 annually, according to HHS.

That said, most of those applying for health insurance through the state marketplaces will receive government help in the form of tax credits that will bring the premiums down.

Family of 4 might pay just $24 per month

For instance, a 27-year-old Dallas resident who makes $25,000 a year can expect to spend as little as $139 per month ($1,668 per year) for a subsidized silver plan, or $74 a month ($888 per year) for the least-expensive bronze plan, with subsidies. When the tax credits are applied, a Dallas family of four making $50,000 a year will spend just $26 per month ($312 per year) for the cheapest bronze plan, according to HHS.

The administration added that premiums will vary, sometimes widely, from state to state. For example, the lowest monthly premium with subsidies for that same family of four that purchases a bronze plan will be $24 in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., $32 in St. Louis and $36 in Charlotte, N.C.

Health insurance policies purchased between Oct. 1 and the end of the year will become effective Jan. 1, 2014. The inaugural open enrollment on the new state marketplaces runs through next March.

The White House hopes the revised premium estimates will be music to the ears of millions of uninsured and underinsured Americans who will be able to purchase health plans on the Obamacare marketplaces in the coming weeks.

Follow me on Twitter: @omnisaurus.

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Jay MacDonald is a Bankrate contributing editor and co-author of "Future Millionaires' Guidebook," an e-book by Bankrate editors and reporters.

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