Americans who have bought Obamacare are getting a good deal

A health care reform specialist helps people select insurance plans at the free Affordable Care Act (ACA) Enrollment Fair at Pasadena City College on November 19, 2013 in Pasadena, California.

Over the past several months, some 3 million Americans have bought health insurance through a state or federal exchanges. According to a new report out this morning from PricewaterhouseCoopers, contrary to many initial concerns, consumers might actually be getting a pretty good deal.

PWC’s Ceci Connolly says the average premium on an exchange is lower than the average premium of an employer-sponsored health plan, and that when the exchanges opened in October, there was concern these new products might be flimsy and expensive.

“That’s one of the misperceptions out there. That somehow they are barebones or you are not really getting adequate medical insurance,” she says.

Connolly says even when you factor in all the out-of-pocket costs, the average top tier gold and platinum plans are similar to employer ones.

And that’s just how insurers want it.

“They see an opportunity to capture new customers. We believe part of the strategy was to be competitive,” she says.

But Matt Eyles with Avalere Health says there is an important difference between employer and exchange plans. “One of the big ways insurers have achieved this is by having a more limited choice or narrower network of providers,” he says.

Restricting doctor choice is a key way insurers keep costs down.

Eyles says if exchanges do well, he can imagine the 156 million people who get insurance at work may one day find themselves shopping on private exchanges a lot like the public ones. 

About the author

Dan Gorenstein is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Health Desk. You can follow him on Twitter @dmgorenstein.

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