CHICAGO – Illinois residents returning to HealthCare.gov to buy insurance are finding prices higher in many parts of the state.
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Monday is decision time under President Barack Obama's health care law, the last day for consumers to choose new plans if they want the changes to take effect Jan. 1.
Average costs fell in the Chicago area, where health care competition is fierce. But costs rose in Springfield and Belleville, according to an analysis of average rates for popular insurance plans conducted for The Associated Press. Health care costs are increasing, but competition for insurance plan customers means populous Chicago is bucking the trend, said Marc Pierce of Stonegate Advisors, a Chicago-based independent consulting company that conducted the analysis for AP.
In Decatur, John and Alicia Phillips decided to stick with the same Blue Cross Blue Shield policy even though their monthly premiums will increase slightly to $249 a month after their tax credit. Their deductibles will increase, too, from $1,000 per person to $1,500 per person, which will raise their out-of-pocket costs when they use health care in 2015.
John Phillips, 43, owns an auto repair shop. His wife is a day-care teacher.
"I looked at some other plans," Phillips said. "I stuck with the company I knew had paid the bills before without argument."
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In the eastern Illinois community of Paris, 59-year-old Starla Redmon wants to shop around. Her low-cost bronze plan is going up from $75 a month to $94 a month, after financial assistance. "If I can find other insurance, I will," she said.
The law requires most people to have health insurance, and the fine for not having it is going up next year to $325 per adult — or 2 percent of household income, whichever is greater.
"Almost every one of my clients got an increase of some sort," said Jamie Simmons, an insurance broker in the southern Illinois city of Carterville. "Several people have said, 'I'm going to drop it and pay the fine.'"
The Stonegate analysts ran numbers and repeated scenarios they used last year when they did a similar study for the AP. Stonegate conducts research for insurers and benefits managers.
The analysis looked at the average monthly costs for three hypothetical households buying bronze or silver plans, the most popular choices, with costs adjusted to include available tax credits or subsidies.
It found that for a single, 30-year-old fast-food cook making $18,000 a year, a bronze plan would cost an average of $66 a month and a silver plan $111 a month in Chicago. In Springfield, the fast-food cook could get a bronze plan for $52 a month or a silver for $106 a month. In Belleville, the cost would be $46 monthly for a bronze or $93 for a silver.
A 50-year-old preschool teacher making $30,000 a year could expect to pay $210 monthly for a bronze plan or $281 a month for a silver plan in Chicago. In Springfield, a bronze plan would cost $188 a month and a silver $274. In Belleville, the prices would be $180 for a bronze or $254 for a silver.
For a family — a 40-year-old freelance writer making $60,000 a year with a stay-at-home spouse and two children — the cost would be $413 a month for a bronze plan or $565 a month for a silver plan in Chicago. In Springfield, the cost would be $367 for an average bronze plan or $549 a month for an average silver plan. In Belleville, the family would pay $348 a month for a bronze or $508 a silver.
AP Medical Writer Carla K. Johnson can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/CarlaKJohnson