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ACA coverage presenting affordable options to many Americans

Health Care and Health Insurance
by Jacqueline Lee
Health insurance concerns, confusion still linger for many Americans
Health insurance concerns, confusion still linger for many Americans

Since the coverage mandate of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was put into place, millions of Americans have been able to get health insurance for what could have been the first time in their lives. However, there has been some concern about what that coverage actually cost low-income consumers who often went without coverage in the past simply because they couldn't afford it.

When it came to that cost of coverage, it seems that insurance purchased through the exchanges tended to be slightly more affordable than similar packages offered through employers, according to new research from the Urban Institute. Nationwide, the average "Silver" plan with the second-lowest price tag available on the government-run exchange sites cost about 10 percent less than the average plan obtained through the workplace.

Oregon is one of the top states for health insurance enrollment.Oregon is one of the top states for health insurance enrollment.

A closer look
This may have been particularly true in less rural areas, because 39 states and Washington, D.C., actually saw the average second-lowest-cost Silver premium come in lower than employer-offered coverage, the report said. Those states where this wasn't the case tended to be less-populous, mostly in the Southern U.S. Likewise, only four of the 32 large metro areas examined actually saw higher-priced plans on the exchanges, with the notable exceptions being San Francisco, Atlanta, New Orleans and Charlotte.

The national average premium available to a 40-year-old on the exchanges at this level was about $294 per month, the report said. Meanwhile, the average monthly premium for comparable coverage at work cost about $52 more.

People are buying
With this in mind, it should come as no real surprise that consumers are interested in buying this kind of coverage, and that much is evidenced by the millions who have flocked to the exchanges in the past few years. That's certainly the case in Oregon, where the rate of people going without insurance has nearly bottomed out since the coverage mandate was enacted, according to the latest American Community Survey Data Release from the U.S. Census. There, only 7 percent of people were without insurance through the end of last year.

That constitutes the largest decline in uninsurance in the nation, because 17 percent of residents didn't have any coverage in 2009, the last full year before the ACA was passed, the report said. Just 280,000 people in the state didn't have coverage at the end of 2015, down from a high of more than 651,000 five years earlier.

The Beaver State is also home to lower rates of uninsurance across all age groups in comparison with the national average, the report said. The largest of these gaps is for young adults ages 18 to 34. In Oregon, only 12.7 percent of people in this age group don't have coverage, in comparison with 16.4 percent nationally. This is likely due in part to a lower rate of unemployed people going without coverage.

Certainly, health insurance providers and agents might take an example from Oregon and do a little more work to improve outreach efforts when it comes to educating uninsured consumers. By letting individuals know what their options are, these companies may be able to help all involved.

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