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California's crystal ball for health insurance exchanges

California has unveiled the prices of health insurance to be sold on a state-run exchange starting next year. A key part of the Affordable Care Act, the exchange is designed to give more people access to insurance, but there could still be cost issues.   

The fear was that a state-run market for health insurance would mean sky-high premiums for consumers. The reality?

"An array of choice and what appears to be pretty competitive prices," says Marian Mulkey of the California HealthCare Foundation.

Costs vary, but the average premium offered by the 13 insurers comes to $321 a month for an individual. If insurance companies lose money at the announced prices, that could undermine the new system, according to Alan Weil, exectuive director of the National Academy for State Health Policy.

"Then the next year they don't want to play, or they radically increase their rates," Weil says.

Mulkey says to expect healthcare costs to continue to rise, even if state exchanges succeed.

"It's probably too big a task to think that they're going to be able to turn the tide," she says.

For 2014, Blue Shield of California predicts an average premium hike of up to 13 percent, compared to about 12 percent this year.

About the author

Stan Alcorn is a multimedia journalist in New York City. He has reported for NPR and WNYC, where he has focused on business and the New York tech scene.
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