At sign-up events like this one in Los Angeles in 2013, Covered California pledged "affordability" in health insurance as one of its main selling points.
Monthly premiums for California's 1.3 million Covered California customers will rise a modest 4 percent, on average, officials with the agency said Monday. This increase is slightly less than last year's increase of 4.2 percent for consumers who bought policies on the state's health insurance marketplace. Some consumers could even achieve a reduction in their premium, of an average of 4.5 percent, if they choose to shop around. In Southern California, consumers who stay in their plan will see an increase of just 1.8 percent, or an average of $296 per month.
But in Northern California, where health care costs are typically higher, because of greater consolidation among doctors and hospitals, the increase is an average of 7 percent monthly, or $384.

If you live in Los Angeles and you shop around, you could see your premiums go down 11 percent." Betsy Imholz, an attorney and advocate with Consumers Union, called the average increase "terrific," and also encouraged people to shop on price.
In part, Levitt credited the cost-containment to Covered California's "substantial enrollment so far." It's a sign, he said, that the marketplace is likely attracting healthy people to help spread the risk of the sicker people. UnitedHealthcare, the largest health insurer in the nation, will now offer plans in parts of the state, including the group of counties that start north of Sacramento and stretch to the Oregon and Nevada borders.
Under the UnitedHealthcare plan, people who live near the Oregon and Nevada borders will also be able to cross state lines to see a doctor, a practice that was often prohibited in other plans. People who live in Susanville, for example, were accustomed to getting care in nearby Reno, Nevada. Lee said that the new additions to the marketplace were chosen because they have good networks and are good for consumers.

The rates announced Monday are preliminary and will be reviewed by state regulators over the next 60 days.
This story was produced by State of Health, KQED's health blog.Copyright 2015 KQED Public Media.

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