POLITICS: PennAve

Administration touts premiums for Obamacare exchanges

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Politics,White House,Obamacare,Health and Human Services,Health Care,PennAve,Kathleen Sebelius,Government Shutdown,Meghashyam Mali,Health Care Exchanges

The Obama administration on Wednesday released the premiums consumers will pay in Obamacare’s new federally run insurance exchanges, touting lower than expected costs.

The Department of Health and Human Services said that in the 36 states where the federal government will manage exchanges, “premiums before tax credits will be more than 16 percent lower than projected,” according to its report.

The report said that 95 percent of consumers would have a choice between two or more insurance plans and the same percentage live in states where average premiums are below previous estimates. The average premium nationally for an individual on the “second-lowest-cost silver plan,” a mid-range policy, will be $328.

Consumers will be able to choose from an average of 53 health plans in the insurance marketplaces as well, the administration said.

“We are excited to see that rates in the Marketplace are even lower than originally projected,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a statement. “In the past, consumers were too often denied or priced-out of quality health insurance options, but thanks to the Affordable Care Act consumers will be able to choose from a number of new coverage options at a price that is affordable.”

The administration’s effort to tout the lower premiums comes days before officials begin signing up consumers in the new health exchanges. The success of the Obamacare exchanges will be crucial in determining the future of President Obama’s signature domestic achievement.

Both supporters and opponents of the healthcare reforms are waging high-profile campaigns amid polls showing public uncertainty about the law’s measures.

The White House has launched a full-court press, promising an “aggressive” campaign to inform the public and sign up participants over the next six months. President Obama spoke on health care reform with former President Bill Clinton at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York on Tuesday.

Obama criticized the “unprecedented effort” by opponents to block the measure and said that when consumers began benefiting from the law, support would swing in favor.

Republican lawmakers, though, are pressing to defund Obamacare at the risk of a government shutdown. The House last week passed a bill which funded the government through mid-December, but which strips funds for rolling out the health law. That measure is unlikely to pass the Democratically controlled Senate, raising fears the government will shut down on Oct. 1.

Obama is also scheduled to speak in Maryland, one of the states running its own insurance exchange, on Thursday. The White House said Obama would defend the health reforms in "very personal" terms.

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