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Government pays 76 percent of premium under health law rules

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POSTED June 17, 2014 7:21 p.m.

WASHINGTON (AP) — People who signed up for coverage under President Barack Obama’s health care law are paying about $80 a month in premiums on average, the administration reported Wednesday.

The new numbers from the Health and Human Services Department cover only the 36 states where the federal government took the lead in setting up new insurance markets, accounting for about 5.4 million of the 8 million people who signed up nationally.

Major states like California and New York were not included, but that may not affect national averages by much. The law limits what people pay for a benchmark plan to a fixed share of their income, regardless of where they live.

Among the major findings:

uTaxpayers are subsidizing 76 percent of the average monthly premium in the 36 federally administered markets.

The average premium is $346 a month, but the typical enrollee pays just $82. Tax credits averaging $264 a month cover the difference. The government pays the subsidy directly to insurers.

uAfter tax credits, Mississippians paid the least for coverage — averaging just $23 a month on average premiums of $438. Among people in the 36 states, New Jersey residents paid the most — an average of $148 on premiums averaging $465 a month.

uFor this year, the average consumer could pick from five insurance companies and 47 different plans, although choice was more limited in a small number of states. From a range of platinum, gold, silver and bronze plans, most people picked silver.

uThere was a link between greater competition and lower premiums. For each additional insurer in a local market, premiums for the benchmark silver plan declined by 4 percent.

uPremiums varied widely between states, ranging from an average of $536 in Wyoming to $243 in Utah.

Federal officials say they don’t yet have complete data on the 14 states running their own markets.

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