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Need an individual health plan? Here's why officials recommend shopping around

Acting Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman Tuesday urged Altoona-area consumers who need individual health plans to shop around. (MGN)

Acting Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman Tuesday urged Altoona-area consumers who need individual health plans to shop around.

Altman said individuals should examine different plans because gold or bronze level Affordable Care Act plans may be a better deal.

The following are examples of how different consumers in the Altoona area could save money by choosing a gold or bronze rather than silver plan on Healthcare.gov, or buying a plan directly from an insurer outside Healthcare.gov.

Altman cautioned consumers to make sure any plan they buy outside Healthcare.gov complies with the requirements of the Affordable Care Act, by asking their insurance professional or talking directly with the five insurers selling plans on the individual market in Pennsylvania. These insurers are Capital BlueCross, Geisinger, Highmark, Independence Blue Cross and UPMC Health Plan.

According to Altman:

· In Altoona, a family of four with a tax credit of $230 may find a silver plan with a premium (after subsidies) of $482. A similar gold plan would cost $456 per month after the subsidy is taken off. By shopping around, the family would likely find the best deal for themselves in a gold plan, with lower premiums, as well as a deductible that is $5,400 less than the silver plan.

· Without subsidies, the same family in Altoona could pay $864 for a similar off-exchange silver plan or $1,162 per month in premiums for an on-exchange silver plan. By shopping around, the family would save nearly $300 per month in premium payments.

· An Altoona family of four making $47,100 a year could get a bronze plan with a $0 monthly premium, with a $13,900 deductible.

· A 30-year-old single individual in Altoona receiving tax credit subsidies can get a gold plan for $12 a month less than a silver plan, with the deductible being $800 for the gold plan, and $3,500 for the silver.

· A single person not receiving tax credit subsidies can get an off-exchange silver plan for $82 a month less than an on-exchange plan. A gold plan on- or off-exchange would be $62 a month more in premiums than an off-exchange silver plan, but would have a deductible of $800 versus $1,800 for the silver plan.

· A single person in Altoona earning $22,000 annually could get a $0 monthly premium bronze plan, with a $6,950 deductible.

“We are hearing concerns from consumers who are seeing large premium increases, due to the Trump Administration ending cost-sharing reduction payments. Insurance companies did not include cost sharing in their premiums in the past due to the federal government making the payments,” Altman said in a news release.

“However, tax credit subsidies, which help about 80 percent of Pennsylvanians pay for their plans bought on Healthcare.gov, increase when the premiums on the silver level plans increase.”

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