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How the Obamacare marketplace rates stack up

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With the federal government's first release of rate information for the new health insurance marketplaces it will facilitate have come a slew of rate analyses.

They differ widely, not because they conflict but because they are based on different measures.

Comparing the new marketplace premium rates among the states that will have federally facilitated marketplaces, Pennsylvania came in below average.

Compared with original Congressional Budget Office estimates of these rates -- the benchmark the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services used -- the average nationwide marketplace premiums will be about 16 percent below the projection.

And, in a much-bruited Forbes comparison citing a Manhattan Institute analysis, the cheapest plan available to a 27-year-old in the new marketplace cost more than the cheapest plan available before Obamacare (not an apples-to-apples comparison, it noted) -- an average of 97 percent for men and 55 percent for women. For 40-year-olds, the Forbes figures say, the marketplace rate averages 99 percent more for men and 62 percent more for women than the cheapest pre-Obamacare plan.

Both the Forbes and CBO comparisons do not factor in federal subsidies, which will be available to qualifying marketplace enrollees between 100 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level.

HHS noted that the plan data cited in the release "is in final stages but is still under review as of September 18 and may be revised in HHS systems before being displayed for consumers."

In a statement titled "Are the healthcare marketplace (insurance exchange) premium rates an indicator of affordable insurance to come?" Pennsylvania Medical Society President Dr. C. Richard Schott noted further factors that should be considered in assessing the rates.

"On average, Pennsylvania's rates appear to be some of the lowest in the country but we are lacking comparison of ACA rates to existing policies," Schott said. "It's our sincere hope for the sake of those in need of insurance that these rates are a positive indicator that the total costs will be affordable, but before we can make that statement, more information is needed on the cost sharing features of the plans including deductibles, co-pays, and co-insurance."

The released information did not include cost-sharing features or specify the networks that the plans will give enrollees access to. In summary, then, much pertinent detail remains to be seen when the marketplaces open on Oct. 1.

Editor's note: This story has been modified to correct details about the Manhattan Institute analysis.

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