HHS cherry picks through its Obamacare data

HHS.gov

Article Highlights

  • The careful data dump obfuscates far more than it reveals.

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  • All of these plans will still expose consumers to hefty cost sharing.

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  • It’s an attempt to gain the upper hand on the messaging for sure — but one that will be quickly annulled.

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The Department of Health and Human Services released some highly selective data today that tries to give a snapshot of the costs consumers will incur when they shop for Obamacare. But the careful data dump obfuscates far more than it reveals.

The data is from the 36 states that are going to have their exchanges administered by the Federal government, either because the Governors opted their state out of Obamacare or a state simply couldn’t get their own exchange up in time

But the report cherry picked the data by narrowly focusing on only two slivers of the marketplace: The lowest cost premiums available to 27-year-olds with an income of $25,000 and families of four with an income of $50,000.

One can bet that folks with these economic and demographic characteristics, which represent just a fraction of the market, weren’t chosen by accident.

The results are pretty much what we already knew from the previous reports that have circulated from Avalere Health, McKinsey and other groups.

For the 27-year old non-smoker, the average premium will start at $163 a month for the lowest-cost “bronze” plan; $203 for the “silver” plan, which provides more benefits than bronze; and $240 for the more-comprehensive “gold” plan.

All of these plans will still expose consumers to hefty cost sharing (and even more significant co-insurance once they go outside their HMO-style, narrow provider list).

The new figures highlighted the most favorable prices in each market. So you can bet these numbers also correlate with the plans that will leave consumers with the fewest choices.

For a family of four with an annual income of $50,000, the administration said, monthly premiums for the second-cheapest plan will vary widely, averaging $600 in Arizona, $800 in Georgia, $961 in Indiana, $1,069 in Mississippi, $859 in New Hampshire, $943 in New Jersey and $656 in Utah.

It was peculiar release just days away from the full data. It’s almost sure to be out of sync with the vast majority of choices people will be offered. It’s an attempt to gain the upper hand on the messaging for sure — but one that will be quickly annulled.

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