In his days as a salesman pitching his healthcare law to the American public, President Barack Obama often said it would not cost much more than a monthly cell-phone bill.
For many people, that has turned out to be true, according to new data released by the Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday. The report found people receiving subsidized health insurance plans are paying $82 a month, on average, for their premiums.
On average, individuals who selected health plans from the federal marketplace saw their premiums slashed by about 76% through the federal subsidies, reducing their monthly premiums about $346 to $82. After tax credits, almost 70% of the approximately 5.4 million people who signed up for plans through exchanges run by the federal government will pay less than $100 a month. And 46% are paying less than $50 a month, HHS said.
The report did not measure the premiums of insurance purchased through state-based marketplaces and federal officials told reporters they didn't have that data. Still, it provides the most comprehensive look at the effect of subsidies during the first open-enrollment period of the Affordable Care Act.
Federal officials said the data proves the law is working.
" What we’re finding is that the Marketplace is working. Consumers have more choices, and they’re paying less for their premiums," newly confirmed Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said.
People are eligible for tax credits if they make more than the federal poverty level — about $11,670 for a single person in 2014, or about $ 23,850 for a family of four — but less than four times that amount. HHS said 87% of the 5.4 million people who signed up through the federally run exchanges selected plans with tax credits. About 2.4 million people signed up through the 15 exchanges run by individual states and the District of Columbia.
Here's a look at the average affect of subsidies on the five different categories of insurance plans offered through the federal marketplaces, which are labeled with "metal level;" Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Catastrophic:
While Obamacare is clearly helping some people lower their premiums, what's less clear from the report is the cost of these subsidies to the federal government. Federal officials refused to speculate on subsidies' cost now that the law has gone into effect.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated in April the federal government would spend about $12 billion in subsidies and related spending — numbers that are projected to rise to $29 billion and $62 billion over the next two years as more people sign up. Calculations from The Los Angeles Times suggest the pricetag for subsidies is about $11 billion — and could amount to close to $16.5 billion if state subsidies are dished out comparably.
An HHS official said the department hopes to have that information "later this year."
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