The Nebraska Department of Insurance on Thursday released proposed premium rates of all health plans submitted under the federal Affordable Care Act in Nebraska for 2014.
The sample premium rates are being presented only as a preliminary tool for comparison, the department said.
People without health insurance through their workplace, a spouse's workplace, from Medicare, Medicaid or other sources will have to buy insurance next year or be penalized through the income tax system. There are 100,000 Nebraskans without health insurance, according to estimates of Families USA using U.S. Census data.
Nebraska is one of several states that have chosen to have the federal government operate the marketplace for health insurance.
The companies participating in Nebraska's marketplace are Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska, which already has the biggest share of the state's health insurance market; Coventry Health Care of Bethesda, Md., which already competes in Nebraska; CoOportunity, the cooperative health care provider in Iowa and Nebraska that was created with financing from the federal government; and Health Alliance Midwest Inc., a managed care company from Urbana, Ill.
Nebraska Insurance Commissioner Bruce Ramge pointed out that a comparison of rates between Coventry and Blue Cross Blue Shield, the only companies of the four that offered rates in past years, showed that health insurance costs are going up for most Nebraskans.
Tom Gilsdorf, director of product development at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska countered: "An apples-to-apples comparison of 2013 health insurance costs to 2014 costs is virtually impossible," he said. "Health insurance that will be sold to individuals, families and small businesses for 2014 is new and must cover a range of Essential Health Benefits that were not covered in the past."
Lower-cost options are available to Nebraskans that are not shown in a one page 2013-to-2014 comparison sample posted by the department.
In the example, the cost of a Blue Cross Blue Shield "silver" plan covering 70 percent of health costs was $245 a month for a 30-year-old single man living in Lincoln, up 82 percent from a year ago, and for Coventry, $271.65, up 143 percent.
Family coverage in Hastings on a silver plan for a 50-year-old single mother with three children was almost $1,000, up 21 percent for Blue Cross Blue Shield and down 5 percent for Coventry, at $975.
In September, the companies will obtain final approval of their plans from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, according to Ramge.
Starting in October, people who don't have health insurance may start shopping for it in the new marketplace or other commercial channels. Many, depending on their income, can get tax credits and cost-sharing options to help pay for it.
Six community health centers in Nebraska, including the People's Health Center in Lincoln, are supposed to help uninsured people enroll.
In addition, Community Action of Nebraska has been awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to pay for a statewide network of Marketplace Navigators to assist families and individuals enrolling in health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
Community Action of Nebraska is the network of the nine Community Action agencies serving all 93 counties in Nebraska.
The proposed rates posted at www.doi.nebraska.gov are considered to be in draft form and are presented only as a preliminary tool for comparison. Some of the plans will be offered on the marketplace and others will be offered outside of it, according to the Insurance Department.
Individual premium rates will be different based on geography, tobacco use and age, the department said.
Experts on the Affordable Care Act advise people with questions to consult www.healthcare.gov or call 800-318-2596.