California’s health-care exchange: Proof ObamaCare works?

obamacareThe Golden State’s premiums are surprisingly low. But don’t expect other states to follow suit.

The Affordable Care Act, better known as ObamaCare, has one major goal: Increasing access to affordable health care. And one of the prime mechanisms to accomplish that goal is a series of state health-care exchanges, where people without employer-provided insurance will be able to buy coverage from competing insurers.

Now, America is getting an important glimpse at that exchange system. Last week, California revealed the bids from the 13 insurance companies participating in its exchange, named Covered California.

The results are important, writes Paul Krugman in The New York Times, because while a health-care exchange has already worked in Massachusetts, critics wondered “what would happen in California, where more than a fifth of the non-elderly population is uninsured, and the individual insurance market is largely unregulated.”

The answer: Lower-than-expected premiums, averaging $321 per month. That beats previous estimates that predicted rates of at least $450

Prices would vary significantly by age and income level. For example, according to KQED Public Radio, a 21-year-old buying the least expensive plan would pay $216 per month or, with the most generous subsidy, only $44.

Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, released a statement calling the announcement “a home run for consumers” that would ” allow millions of consumers to enroll in affordably priced products.”

The lack of sticker shock in California, which is home to 12% of the U.S population, seems like a good sign

Of the U.S. populatioin

The lack of sticker shock in California, which is home to 12 percent of the U.S. population, seems like a good sign for ObamaCare in the Golden State. But will it translate to the country as a whole?

The lure of dramatically increased market share, however, has actually caused insurers to lower their prices — which is, as Rick Ungar of Forbes points out, is “precisely what the president said would happen.”

Six states work under this model: California, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Others work under the clearinghouse model, which allows health-care plans under criteria that are much less strict than the rules set by California.

The bulk of the Affordable Care Act, including the health-care exchanges, is set to go into effect on January 1, 2014.

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