More Good News for Obamacare—Evidence Premiums Will Be Cheaper Than Expected

A blog about business and economics.
Sept. 5 2013 10:07 AM

The Biggest Study Yet of Obamacare Premiums Indicates Insurance Will Be Cheaper Than Expected

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SAN JOSE - JUNE 7: With the savings, we can buy quite a few cruise missiles.

Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images

Here's some good news for Americans who are currently uninsured, who currently buy insurance on the individual marketplace, or who think it's possible that at some point over the course of their life they might have to or want to switch jobs—the premiums charged for insurance plans on the Affordable Care Act exchanges will likely be cheaper than forecast by the Congressional Budget Office.

Since the level of subsidies available to families of modest means is keyed in part to the price of insurance premiums, this is also good news for anyone who pays taxes or uses non–health care public services.

The news comes to us from the Kaiser Family Foundation which recently completed the most comprehensive survey yet of what Obamacare plans will actually cost. Answering this basic question is frustratingly difficult. Premiums will vary based on your age and the size of your family. Premiums will also vary from place to place. And then subsidy levels will vary based on your income, the size of your family, and the local premiums. With all those variables in place, it's impossible to give a quick summary answer to the question "what will it cost." Instead you need to go step-by-step through each state and run a series of calculations. That's what Kaiser did, creating the highest-quality survey we've seen yet. Unfortunately, there are still tons of places where premium data isn't available so these preliminary conclusions might end up being off-base. But the news from what we do know is good.

Here's their bottom line:

While premiums will vary significantly across the country, they are generally lower than expected. For example, we estimate that the latest projections from the Congressional Budget Office imply that the premium for a 40-year-old in the second lowest cost silver plan would average $320 per month nationally. Fifteen of the eighteen rating areas we examined have premiums below this level, suggesting that the cost of coverage for consumers and the federal budgetary cost for tax credits will be lower than anticipated.

The big question, of course, is will this hold up as more data from more states becomes available.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.