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Proposed Connecticut exchange rates in narrow range

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HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A review of rates proposed by insurance carriers offering the lowest-cost plans for individuals in Connecticut’s new health insurance exchange shows there are narrow differences between the different companies.

According to a report released Tuesday, the rates filed with the state’s Department of Insurance for individuals vary, at most, by a little more than 10 percent.

“In general, our review indicated the rates within a bronze medal tier are pretty narrow,” said Julia Lambert, president of the Wakely Consulting Group. Under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), health insurers offer plans that meet levels of coverage — bronze, silver, gold and platinum — based on how much individuals in the plans would be expected to pay through deductibles and co-payments.

For a single person age 21 living in Fairfield County, the most expensive county in Connecticut for individual and small group insurance, average rates for bronze plans range from $222.24 a month to $245.51. For a family of four, including a couple in their forties with two teenage children, the rates range from $904.72 to $999.45 a month in Fairfield County. That’s before any eligible federal subsidies might apply.

Lambert’s group conducted a cursory comparison of 2013 rates to the ones proposed for the health exchange. Considering the new plans will likely offer expanded benefits, among other reasons, some younger people ineligible for subsidies could see some fairly significant premium increases.

For example, a single 21-year-old male living in Fairfield County and earning $45,960 annually paid an average premium of $105.44 a month in 2013. That figure climbs to $231.73 a month in 2014 under a bronze tier plan offered by one insurer, the nonprofit Healthy CT. Lambert said older people and families might expect decreased rates, depending on eligible subsidies.

The proposed rates examined by Wakely are not yet final. The state Department of Insurance still needs to approve, reject or change the proposals for both individual and small group plans to be offered by Access Health CT, the state’s health insurance exchange.

While the department had faced a Wednesday deadline for action, it appears new changes in federal rules could give the agency until next month. Open enrollment begins Oct. 1.

So far, Kevin Counihan, the exchange’s CEO, said he is pleased with the consultant’s rate review and how it also showed that some of the carriers reduced their rates to varying degrees during the Department of Insurance’s review process.

“That, to me, is a great example of how the marketplace is working,” Counihan said. “We want those carriers to be in that marketplace, fighting it out.”

But Lambert stressed that the amount of people’s premiums will ultimately depend on numerous factors, such as where they live, their age, their family size and other issues. Hartford County had the lowest premiums for the proposed individual plans, while Litchfield County had the lowest for small group plans, which include less than 50 people.

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