The state Department of Financial Services has approved health-insurance rates for 17 insurers seeking to offer coverage through New York’s Health Benefits Exchange, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced today. The federal Affordable Care Act requires that each state have an insurance marketplace through which individuals and small businesses will be able to purchase health insurance. The marketplace is expected to help more than a million uninsured New Yorkers.
Enrollment is in the Health Benefits Exchange is scheduled to begin Oct. 1, and coverage starts Jan. 1. Consumers and businesses will be able to choose among plans, which will be ranked as bronze, silver, gold and platinum. The plans within each metal tier will have standardized contract terms and product offerings, so they will be easy to compare. Eight of the 17 insurers do not currently offer commercial health-insurance plans in the state.
On average, the approved rates for the highest tier of plans for individuals are 53 percent less than last year’s direct-pay individual rates. Average individual rates are being cut by more than half, primarily because a larger number of uninsured individuals are expected to get coverage in the individual insurance market, according to state officials.
The average approved rates for an individual silver plan are nearly 10 percent lower than the national average that the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office’s forecast, state officials said. This is even as health-care costs per capita in New York are about 18 percent higher than the national average.
The approved rates for small groups generally are lower than what independent forecasters predicted. The average approved small-group rate for the silver plan is almost 32 percent lower than the nationwide average that the Congressional Budget Office originally predicted. Some small businesses will be eligible for tax credits that would further reduce premiums.
“New York’s health benefits exchange will offer the type of real competition that helps drive down health insurance costs for consumers and businesses,” Cuomo said in a statement. “The opportunity to choose among affordable, quality health insurance options will mean improved health outcomes, stronger economic security, and better peace of mind for New York families.”
Insurers in New York previously offered more than 15,000 plans with great variations in terms of coverage. That provided “competition through confusion” and made it hard for consumers to compare plans, according to the governor.
“In setting these rates, we worked hard to do right by consumers and small businesses so they have access to affordable, quality health insurance,” Benjamin Lawsky, superintendent of financial services, said in a statement. “Moreover, where New York previously had a dizzying array of thousands upon thousands of plans, small businesses will now be able to truly comparison shop for the best prices. New York will continue to move ahead rapidly so the exchange is up and running for 2014.”
These are the participating plans whose rates have been approved:
— Affinity Health Plan, Inc.
— American Progressive Life & Health Insurance Company of New York
— Capital District Physicians Health Plan Inc.
— Health Insurance Plan of Greater New York
— Empire BlueCross BlueShield
— Fidelis Care
— Freelancers Co-Op
— Healthfirst New York
— HealthNow New York, Inc.
— Independent Health
— MetroPlus Health Plan
— MVP Health Plan Inc.
— North Shore LIJ
— Oscar Health Insurance Co.
— United Healthcare.