Ready or not, we're just a few days away from the Affordable Care Act's opening act when federal exchanges open Tuesday, October 1. The government website HealthCare.gov provides the most extensive overview of the program and frequently asked questions about preparing for enrollment.
Tuesday is when shoppers will be able to visit the website and see exactly what plans and rates are available. However, we already know the amount of options and prices will change depending on where you live in Tennessee.
Earlier this week, the Department of Health and Human Services released a sneak peek at some numbers to show what kind of options each state will have and how much the plans will cost. The figures revealed relatively good news for Tennesseans with the state having some of the least expensive monthly rates in the nation.
The HHS website features a table for Tennessee's qualified health plans (QHP) with a pulldown menu to change the age of the person seeking coverage.
The column that says "Rating Area ID" is merely dividing the state into eight areas. Those areas contain different counties. Depending on which county you live in, the amount of health plans available will change along with the prices.
Most of our region is in Rating Area 2 and includes Anderson, Blount, Campbell, Claiborne, Cocke, Grainger, Hamblen, Jefferson, Knox, Loudon, Monroe, Morgan, Roane, Scott, Sevier, and Union Counties. Out of the eight rating areas in Tennessee, Area 2 has the lowest average prices for all levels of coverage. Area 2 also features 67 different health plans to choose from.
The CMS.gov website provides a full list of Tennessee counties organized by geographic Rating Area.
Rating Area 1 covers the northeastern portion of Tennessee and only offers 30 health plans to choose from. According to the table, someone in Area 1 will pay $20 to $35 more a month than a Knoxville resident would pay for the same coverage.
No matter where you live, the table shows the biggest impact on the price of coverage is age. Levels of coverage are broken up into bronze, silver, gold, and platinum. Bronze is the lowest level of coverage and the least expensive.
For lower level "silver" coverage that is neither the cheapest nor the most expensive, the rate to cover a child in Knoxville and other counties in Area 1 is around $90 a month. People in their 20s will pay roughly $140 to $150 a month. If you're in your 30s, the rate is generally around $170.
The rates jump more drastically as people reach their mid-40s. A 45-year-old pays more than $200 a month for silver coverage. Someone 50-years-old pays $250. The rate jumps to $380 once you reach 60 years of age. The table categorizes the most expensive age group as those older than 64 and says they will pay $420 a month for the lowest level of silver coverage.
Again, right now all of those figures are rough estimates. The true evidence of rates will come October 1 when enrollment begins and people can get quotes based on personalized plans.