Professor Mark Hall tells the Winston-Salem Journal that the lower-than-projected health insurance premium rates could attract uninsured individuals and families

A substantial discount on monthly health insurance premium costs appears available to many Triad residents, according to data released Wednesday on the federal health exchange launching Jan. 1.For example, a Triad family of four with a $50,000 household income would pay an average of $282 a month for mid-level coverage.

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That would represent a 66 percent premium discount once tax credits are applied, compared with the $826 that family would have paid on average before the health exchange, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Statewide, the discount would be 68 percent for that family of four.

The agency released data for the 36 states in which it will either run the exchange, as in North Carolina, or assist in a state-federal partnership. Enrollment in the exchanges begins Tuesday and remains open until March.

According to nonprofit advocacy group Families USA, more than 896,000 North Carolinians — including more than 176,000 in the Triad and Northwest North Carolina — will be eligible for the tax credits.

“For millions of Americans, these new options will finally make health insurance work within their budgets,” Kathleen Sebelius, secretary for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said in a statement.

The premium cost for ages 21 to 64 in the 16 North Carolina rating areas can be found at

DHHS spokesman Ricky Diaz declined to comment Wednesday when asked if the premium rates were lower, higher or about what had been projected by the state agency.

Federal law will require adults to have insurance or face a penalty, beginning next year. The penalty starts at $95 for an adult, or 1 percent of the person’s income – whichever is higher.

The federal agency lists an average of 22 quality health plans for North Carolina participants ages 21 to 64, with four levels of coverage options – bronze, silver, gold and platinum. Bronze has the lowest premium rate and highest deductible and co-pays. Young adults will have the option of purchasing a lower-cost “catastrophic” plan/

Where participants live within one of 16 rating areas, the plan they pick, family size, age, tax credits based on income and tobacco use will affect the rate cost.

Mark Hall, a health policy expert at Wake Forest University’s law school, said the lower-than-projected premium rates could attract enough uninsured individuals and families to provide the critical mass necessary to spur more competition, thus further lowering the rates.

“You may not see that many people enroll in the first month or so because it is a new concept,” Hall said. “You likely will see half of the enrollment take place in February as the deadline nears.”

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