Private exchanges offer cheaper coverage, more choice than Obamacare

A new study from the National Center for Public Policy Research finds that Americans looking to buy health insurance faced more choice and cheaper premiums last year than the plans available on the Obamacare exchanges.

“Many supporters of ObamaCare insisted that the health insurance exchanges created by the law would result in consumers having a greater choice among insurance policies and lower prices,” wrote David Hogberg, a health care policy analyst at the National Center for Public Policy Research. “The results [of the study] show that the claims that the ObamaCare exchanges would offer greater choice and lower prices did not hold up.”

The lack of choice on the Obamacare exchanges has been highlighted in various news stories around the country, though most focus on rural areas. The cost of health plans available has also been a frequent complaint from consumers and critics of the law. The premium hikes are caused by the law’s mandates and actuarial requirements.

In the study, Obamacare Exchanges: Less Choice, Higher Prices, Hogberg looked at plans available on the exchanges in metropolitan areas in 45 states for both a single, 27-year-old male and female as well as a 57-year-old couple and compared the results to the 2013 plans available on eHealthInsurance.com and Finder.Healthcare.gov. The results confirmed what critics of the law already suspected.

“A 27-year-old male had, on average, ten more policies to choose from on eHealth versus the exchange and 31 more on Finder. A 27-year-old female had an average of ten more insurance options on eHealth and 38 on Finder,” noted Hogberg. “There were an average of nine more policies on eHealth and 19 more on Finder for a 57-year-old couple.”

“Consumers also previously had more lower-cost options than they now have on the exchanges. A 27-year-old male had, on average, access to 32 policies on eHealth that cost less than the cheapest policy on the exchanges and 38 policies that cost less on Finder. There were an average of 18 cheaper policies on eHealth and 20 on Finder for a 27-year-old female,” he continued. “A 57-year-old couple had access to an average of 29 cheaper polices on eHealth compared to the lowest-cost policy on the exchange and 28 on Finder.”

Obamacare supporters would argue that premiums support subsidies available through the law make health insurance less expensive for most people who purchase through the state and federal exchanges. But the study explains that this notion isn’t necessarily true.

“An examination of subsidies that consumers can receive to purchase insurance on the exchanges produced mixed results on costs. A 57-year-old couple earning $50,000 annually were usually eligible for a subsidy large enough that the price of the cheapest exchange policy was lower than the price of any policy on eHealth or Finder,” Hogberg explained. “But for a 27-year-old earning $25,000 annually, the subsidy was less potent.”

“In fact, even after subsidy options were accounted for, 27-year-old males still had access to an average of 18 cheaper polices on both eHealth and Finder, while a 27-year-old female had access to an average of nine on eHealth and eight on Finder,” he added.


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