“The surprise is that, for many in the individual market, the premiums will be lower and the benefits so much richer,” said Mike Kreidler, the state insurance commissioner in Washington. “Eventually, I can see the Affordable Care Act being embraced like Medicare, because once people get used to this kind of coverage, it’s going to be a pretty abhorrent thing to try and take it away.”
In Oregon, brisk competition will mean real choice for consumers. Starting in October, a 40-year-old resident of Portland can choose between one insurer charging $169 a month or another asking $422 for the same plan. When these rates were first posted not long ago, some of the companies requested a do-over so they could submit lower rates. Yes, lower rates. So much for a government takeover.
In California, 13 companies will compete for the business of 5.3 million or so people expected to purchase insurance through the new exchanges. Officials say the average monthly premium will be $321 — that is, $110 less than the national average predicted by the Congressional Budget Office.
All of the above are for individuals, shopping for their own health insurance as required by the new law. For the majority of Americans, those with employer coverage, Medicare or Medicaid, little will change except that insurers can no longer put a lifetime cap on benefits. The biggest change, the one likely to drive public perception, will be felt by people long denied care because of “pre-existing conditions.” Soon, they will pay the same insurance rates as healthy people, and get second chances at life.