Obamacare Subsidies Allow Higher Level of Care

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Consumer with health care subsidies may be getting a higher level of care, says a study on the affordability of Obamacare-era health care from eHealth Insurance.

The for-profit company, citing data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, says the average premium for an individual plan before subsidies were applied was $346 per month (shrinking to an average $82 per month with the subsidies) but for people buying without subsidies an individual plan was $271 per month.

Among shoppers with subsidies, "silver" plans were the most common, but for among unsubsidized shoppers "bronze" plans were the most common, the company says. Subsidized shoppers felt like they had $75 more to spend per month.

Under the Bronze plan, deductibles can be higher, so bronze buyers who were also forced to use their insurance to the hilt could pay more than $4,000 annually. The difference suggests economists will get their test of a long-held belief: that Americans would be wiser consumers of health care when faced with its actual costs.

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With Obamacare adding some 8 million to 10 million Americans to the rolls of those insured, half of Americans said they were spending more on health care and half reported spending less, according to Bankrate.com. Another 46% of Americans say much higher prices for health plans could be a major problem during the upcoming enrollment season, although rates have only begun to be rolled out and insurers are so far announcing a range of decreases and increases.

Although the cost of health care insurance rose annually even before Obamacare, and often at double-digit rates, 37% in the Bankrate study say they are "more negative" today about the Affordable Care Act than they were a year ago, and only 16% say they are more positive than a year ago. In the middle are 47% whose feelings apparently haven't changed one way or another.

Meanwhile, 56% of Americans are not confident the Obamacare exchanges will operate smoothly during this fall’s open enrollment period.

"This demonstrates the long shadow cast by the bungled rollout of the exchanges last year" says Bankrate.com insurance analyst Doug Whiteman.