Covered California announces 13 health plans


Choices include Kaiser Permanente and Anthem Blue Cross, as well as small regional insurers. The goal is to offer private insurance plans similar to those already given to employees of large companies.

Of the 5.3 million Californians who must buy insurance on their own, more than half are eligible for federal subsidies to lower the cost.

"Starting in 2014, consumers can rest assured that the benefits that they're going to get will cover everything they need, will protect them from bankruptcy and will be full and rich in coverage," said Peter Lee with Covered California.

Price varies according to geography and level of coverage, from bronze -- the least expensive -- to platinum -- the Cadillac plan.

Take a 40-year-old who earns more than $46,000 a year with no federal subsidy, for instance. The most expensive region is Sacramento, where that customer can pay anywhere from $250 to nearly $700 a month.

Alameda County is about in the middle, between $265 to $550. And the least expensive is what's called Los Angeles North; monthly premiums there range between $188 and $388.

"So why do they cost different? A range of things: The No. 1 is their provider networks -- Who are in their networks, what their contracts are with the doctors and hospitals that are part of their networks," said Lee.

For those who make too much to qualify for Medi-Cal or the federal subsidy, prices seem steep.

"We're always concerned about affordability. We think this is an opening bid, but there's more work to do," said Anthony Wright with Health Access.

"But if you look in most parts of the state, the bronze product and silver product are going to be very affordable," said Charles Bacci of the California Association of Health Plans.

One of the biggest criticisms of the Affordable Care Act is there's no limit on how high premiums can go up after those 2014 rates. But Covered California says it can kick insurers off the exchange if their prices aren't competitive."

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