Administration says subsidies cut premiums by 76%News added by Benefits Pro on June 19, 2014

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By Kathryn Mayer

Nearly seven in 10 consumers who signed up for coverage on the exchanges under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act are paying $100 or less per month for health insurance thanks to the law’s subsidies, the administration said Wednesday.

According to a report released by the Department of Health and Human Services, on average, monthly premiums for people who selected plans with tax credits fell 76 percent after subsidies, dropping the cost of the average monthly premium from $346 before tax credits to $82 across all plan types.

Consumers who selected silver plans, the most popular plan type in the federal exchange, paid an average premium of $69 per month with subsidies. And, officials said, nearly half — 46 percent — are paying less than $50 per month.

Roughly 90 percent of consumers who bought coverage through the federal exchange got a subsidy.

Officials also touted the competition found in the exchanges. On average, they said, consumers could choose from five health carriers and 47 exchange plans. Meanwhile, each additional carrier participating in an exchange lowered premiums for the silver plan by about 4 percent on average, HHS said.

“What we’re finding is that the Marketplace is working,” Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said in a statement. “Consumers have more choices, and they’re paying less for their premiums. When there is choice and competition, everybody benefits.”

Still, both premiums and carrier competition varied widely between states. For example, just one carrier was available in New Hampshire and West Virginia; in New York, there were 16.

The HHS data is of the 5.4 million residents in the 36 states who used the federal exchange in the first open enrollment period. HHS doesn’t have data on enrollments through state exchanges. They reported their findings in a 26-page report, a first attempt at gauging the availability and affordability of plans under PPACA after its first open enrollment closed.

Though supporters tout subsidies’ ability to make coverage affordable under the law, critics argue they’re simply too expensive, costing the federal government upwards of $10 billion.

Also on Wednesday, new analysis from Avalere Health found that PPACA premiums will increase an average of 8 percent next year. In nine states studied, the consulting firm said, the average premium for a silver plan will increase from $324 to $350.

Also read: Carriers score with low premium plans

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