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September 14, 2013

Three insurance companies to offer individual coverage under the Affordable Care Act

NORMAN — Three large insurance companies plan to offer health policies to individual Oklahomans at rates ranging from less than $100 to more than $1,000 per month through the new insurance marketplace being set up under the Affordable Care Act.

The rates posted by Aetna Life Insurance Co., Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma and Coventry Health & Life Insurance Co. for policies they will offer under the health-care law vary widely based on age, geographic location, tobacco use and plan type.

The lowest rate is $61 per month for a Blue Cross Blue Shield policy that requires buyers to pay virtually all of their medical expenses up to $6,350 per year. It would apply only to people below the age of 21 who live in central Oklahoma or Comanche County, which includes Lawton.

At the upper end, a $1,241 monthly rate would apply to smokers over the age of 63 who live in the Lawton area and who choose an Aetna Premier policy with a $2,000 deductible and $10 co-pays for routine doctor appointments.

The rates posted by the insurers do not take into account federal tax credits that will reduce the net cost to many buyers by hundreds of dollars, and in a few cases to zero, depending on their income.

“This is an enormous change,” said Deputy State Insurance Commissioner Mike Rhoads. “Now everybody has the assurance regardless of their health insurance that they can get coverage … It’s the largest change with respect to health insurance since the passage of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965.”

Rhoads expressed concern that the rates posted by insurance companies for the new marketplace appear to be consistently higher than those charged for existing plans, although federal tax credits will soften the blow for most people.

The Oklahoma figures appear to compare favorably, however, with Affordable Care Act rates in other states where rates already have been announced.

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