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Originally published May 14, 2014 at 8:48 PM | Page modified May 15, 2014 at 6:41 AM

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Proposed health exchange plans: A detailed look at choices, prices

A first look at proposed premiums for individual health plans aimed at the Healthplanfinder online marketplace reveals competition and variety.

Seattle Times health reporter

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A first-glance snapshot of the lowest premium rates being proposed for individual health-insurance plans to be sold in the Washington Healthplanfinder exchange marketplace reveals spirited competition and more choices for consumers.

These rates are not yet approved, and it’s likely the number of plans requested will decline, according to the Office of the Insurance Commissioner.

That office is now reviewing rate changes the companies requested.

Changes proposed by companies asking to sell plans on Healthplanfinder ranged from a nearly 7 percent decrease in one case to an increase of more than 11 percent in others.

Most companies said in their filings that they expected their health-care costs to go up between 2 and nearly 9 percent. Some said they lost money on this year’s plans.

Customers will pay more if they smoke and, for most companies, premiums in other counties may be higher. Companies are allowed rate adjustments in different counties.

As was true for this year, companies vary plans not only by premium price, but by deductible, networks and other factors. In an accompanying chart, we listed only the lowest price plan by each insurer in the different “metal levels.” (The metal levels indicate the cost split between the customer and the company. Silver levels pay 70 percent of health costs. Gold pays more, bronze less.)

Only one company, BridgeSpan Health, offered a high-tier platinum plan, which pays 90 percent of costs.

Two companies — Bridge­Span and Group Health Cooperative — offered catastrophic plans, available only to those under 30 or people who have hardship exemptions.

And the number of exchange plans the companies are offering vary as well. BridgeSpan wants to sell 30 plans, while Molina Healthcare of Washington is submitting three.

If the last sign-up period is any indication, up to 79 percent of those buying on the exchange will get a tax credit or subsidy, so the premium increases may be blunted a bit.

The credit is calculated from the person’s income and applied to the price of the second-lowest silver plan, no matter which one the person selects.

And throughout, at the risk of repetition, deductibles can vary — by a lot.

As an example, in proposed premium costs across various insurers, the lowest-premium bronze plan from one company could cost a 60-year-old nonsmoker $431 — or nearly $200 more at $628 from another insurer.

A silver plan with the lowest monthly premium from one company could cost a 21-year-old King County resident $192 — or $278, from another.

Companies not listed in the chart either were not asking to sell plans inside the exchange or do not sell in King County.

Individual plans are also available to customers outside the exchange.

Open enrollment begins, in both cases, on Nov. 15.

Carol M. Ostrom: or 206-464-2249. On Twitter @costrom

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