Published Sept. 23, 2013
Under the Affordable Care Act, individual and small-group health insurance coverage will be available through online exchanges set up by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Insurance Department said.
The exchanges are in addition to the existing private health insurance market, the state agency said. It added that insurance companies must be licensed and rates and for these products approved by the state. The plans also must be certified by the federal government as Qualified Health Plans.
The four companies offering individual health policies in the exchange are BlueChoice Health Plan, BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, Consumers’ Choice Health Insurance, and Coventry Health Care of the Carolinas.
Coventry was not listed as offering coverage to small businesses.
Plans for individuals cover catastrophic and all of the “Metal Level” categories except platinum.
According to the federal government, customers who buy “Metal Level” policies will pay out of pocket anywhere from 40% for bronze plans, which have lower premiums, to 10% for platinum, which have higher premiums.
Officials think there’ll be little demand for platinum plans because the premiums are high and tax credits low.
Officials estimate that about 750,000 South Carolinians are uninsured, and data indicate as many as 400,000 could sign up for individual policies under the law.
In the small-group category, BlueChoice and BlueCross BlueShield will offer plans in the silver and gold categories. Consumers’ Choice will offer eight plans covering all four metal categories – bronze, silver, gold and platinum.
Overall, 12 plans are offered for the small business group market.
Costs of the plans were not provided by the state agency; however, the Insurance Department estimates health insurance rates in the federally facilitated exchanges will increase by 50% to 70% in the individual market and by 10% to 20% in the small-group market.
Federal officials doubt the S.C. estimate, saying that states they’ve looked at are offering lower premiums than initially estimated.
The federal government wants to make sure the state is comparing “apples to apples,” said Anton Gunn, director of external affairs for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.