FILE - This Oct. 11, 2012 file photo shows a basket of medical supplies await storage in Brookhaven, Miss. The No. 1 question about President Barack Obamaís health care law is whether consumers will be able to afford the coverage. Now the answer is coming in: The biggest study yet of premiums posted publicly by states finds that the sticker price will average about $270 a month if youíre a 21-year-old buying a mid-range policy. Thatís before government tax credits that will act like a discount for most people, bringing down the cost based on their income. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File) / AP
MIAMI (AP) ó Premiums in Florida for a mid-range health insurance plan under the Affordable Care Act will be $328 a month on average and will vary based on where a buyer lives, according to federal figures released Wednesday ahead of the launch of new health insurance markets next week.
Of the state's six largest metro areas, premium estimates excluding tax breaks were highest in Orlando and lowest in West Palm Beach and Tampa.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services officials gave cost estimates based on two scenarios: a 27-year-old and a family of four earning $50,000 a year broken down by region. A premium for a mid-range health insurance plan for a 27-year-old would cost monthly $207 in Orlando but only $167 in the West Palm Beach area.
A family of four with an income of $50,000 a year would pay $816 in premiums for the mid-range health insurance plan in Orlando but only $721 in Tampa. Tax credits, though, help equalize the premiums among Florida's metro areas.
Individuals making less than roughly $46,000 a year and a four-person family with an income of less than $94,000 a year will qualify for subsidies to offset costs. The liberal advocacy group Families USA estimates 1.7 million Floridians will be eligible for federal subsidies to help purchase insurance under the state exchange. But the amount will vary widely depending on income, location, the plan, family size, age, and even tobacco use.
Once tax credits are included, that same family of four would have a monthly premium of $282 in all Florida metro areas.
Compared to estimated premiums in other states, Florida's estimated premiums fall squarely in the middle, closely tracking the national average. Florida has one of the highest uninsured rates in the country with an estimated 3.5 million lacking insurance. The rate release comes as the White House swings into full campaign mode to promote the benefits of the Affordable Care Act to a skeptical public. Congressional Republicans, meanwhile, refuse to abandon their quest to derail "Obamacare" and are flirting with a government shutdown to force the issue.
Floridians wanting to purchase the lowest-cost plan would pay $257 a month on average.
Wednesday's release also showed the price range of premiums based on the type of plan a person gets.
A 27-year-old, not qualifying for tax credits, could pay as little as $132 a month for the lowest level plan covering only catastrophic events, but spend $229 a month on the highest-benefits plan, known as "gold." If too many young, healthy adults find those costs too high and instead opt to pay a $100 a year fine, it could throw the entire system off balance as insurers are banking on the enrollment of so-called "young invincibles" to offset the costs of caring for older, sicker adults.
In many counties, Floridians will be able to choose from six or seven carriers. But Bay, Franklin, Glades, Jefferson and Madison were among the 20 mostly rural counties where consumers will only have one option, according to state insurance officials.
"Before the Affordable Care Act was passed, individual markets in way too many states were dominated by just one or two companies and most consumers simply didn't have a lot of options from which to choose," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said during a phone call with reporters Tuesday afternoon.
Federal health officials were careful not to definitively say rates would be cheaper under the Affordable Care Act, stressing it's impossible to compare rates to those in the existing marketplace because plans under the new health law are required to cover more benefits. But Cohen said consumers will have high quality coverage at competitive rates, which will be even more appealing after the tax credits.
Florida Republicans are vehemently pushing back against implementing parts of the law. The Florida Department of Health recently ordered county health departments across the state to ban "navigators" from conducting outreach on their property.
Gov. Rick Scott, a vocal opponent of so-called "Obamacare," has also frequently expressed concern about the security of people's personal information, including their tax information and Social Security number, as they sign up for health coverage.
Under the new online exchange, consumers will be able to choose from bronze, silver, gold, platinum and catastrophic plans that offer a range of premiums, deductibles and co-pays depending on variables such as how many doctors they want included in their network.
Anyone making below the poverty line won't be eligible for subsidies through the online marketplace. Federal health officials anticipate roughly 1 million Floridians will fall into a gap where they can't get health insurance because the state rejected Medicaid expansion.