Obamacare premiums vary greatly by state, city

(CBS News) NEW YORK -- The Obama administration is stepping up the pressure on uninsured Americans - especially young Americans -- to sign up and buy health insurance on the new state exchanges that open next week.

Phone counselors in training at the New York State health exchange call center.
Phone counselors in training at the New York State health exchange call center.
CBS News

On Wednesday, it put out new estimates of the premiums. For instance, a 40-year-old earning $50,000 and choosing the medium-priced "silver" plan would pay, on average, $328 a month. Some will pay a lot more, some a lot less, depending on their location.

Phone counselors are in training at the New York State health exchange call center. Starting next Tuesday, hundreds of them will be on duty to help guide people through the dozens of choices they face. The calls have already been pouring in.

"We are getting about 580 calls a day, on average," says Lisa Sbrana, who is with the New York Department of Health. Sbrana says many of the callers ask about what their rates will look like.

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Depending on where you live and what kind of plan you choose, the rate you'll pay will vary greatly.

In addition to the state-to-state differences, rates vary from city to city within the state. In New York City, a 40-year-old making $50,000 a year would pay an average of $415, but upstate in Ithaca, N.Y., the average is $446, or $372 more a year.

Lisa Sbrana
Lisa Sbrana
CBS News

Asked why there is so much variation in the average premiums within states, Sbrana says, "Some of it is related to the geographic area in the state."

"In the city, you have, of course, you have thousands of providers, which is really different if you are in a small upstate county," she says.

It's the insurance companies that set the rates. The more competition within a community, in general, the lower the premiums.

After the exchanges are up and running, consumers will be able to read reviews on the health exchange websites about how well the plans actually work. That information is intended to weed out insurance companies that aren't living up to expectations.

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