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Average Obamacare premiums are lower than projected: why yours may not be (+video)

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(Read caption) Affordable Care Act: Will your insurance premium rise?
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Nearly three and a half years after the passage of the nation’s sweeping health-care overhaul, Obamacare is set to go online next Tuesday with new, federally mandated health insurance exchanges – a key provision of the 2010 Affordable Care Act. 

Uninsured individuals nationwide must either find an affordable plan to purchase by the end of the year, or pay a tax penalty.

That's why the Obama administration's release, on Wednesday, of a comprehensive summary of the average health-care premiums that private insurance companies will offer next week on these exchanges, or state “health insurance marketplaces,” drew immediate scrutiny.

According to the summary released by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the average monthly premium for a mid-level health plan on these exchanges will be $328 – about 16 percent below projections.

But this average premium number can be very misleading, since it is a weighted average for the entire country, experts say, based on some of the cheaper plans offered by the exchanges. Indeed, the rates provided by the summary give a dizzying array of premiums, varying widely according to age, region, and family size – as well as the kind of plan purchased.

The federal government will support or fully run the private insurance marketplaces of 36 states, with 11 other states currently choosing to run their own. For those exchanges run by the federal government, there are an average of 53 plans and premiums per state to choose from, and an average of 8 carriers providing these plans, and competing for enrollees. Some areas, however, will have as few as six plans, and some will only have a single carrier to choose from – another significant regional variance.

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