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Missouri Gets First Peek At 2015 Health Plans On Federal Exchange

Adrian Clark | Flickr

Even though open enrollment doesn't start for several days, Healthcare.gov began on Monday to allow visitors to take a peek at the individual health insurance plans and rates that will be available for 2015. 

In the St. Louis area, two additional insurance companies  — Cigna and UnitedHealthcare — began offering plans on the federal exchange. For zip codes in St. Louis, the marketplace lists 41 plans with varying monthly premiums, co-pays and deductibles.

Ryan Barker of Cover Missouri said the additional competition likely led to a slight decrease in plan prices.

“Seeing almost a doubling of plan options in St. Louis, one of the lessons we learned last year was that this is complicated stuff,” Barker said. “One of the things we’re really recommending to consumers is to visit a navigator or certified application counselor.”

2015 is also the first year that most uninsured legal residents above a certain income level will pay a penalty on their taxes if they do not purchase a health plan. (For a quick infographic about who pays penalties, and how much they are, click here)

This has made the decision to get health insurance difficult for St. Louis-area residents like Greg Gibson, a 61-year-old sales director who exercises regularly, keeps a healthy diet and says he never visited the emergency room until last year.

“I had no health insurance, and that [emergency room visit] was a $4,000 dollar bill,” Gibson said.

Gibson calculated that even a basic plan would cost him at least $230 a month. If he doesn’t purchase insurance, Gibson said he’ll face a $500 penalty.  

“Back when I was 31 and healthier than I am now, I’d go, 'Well, I’ll worry about that whenever,'” Gibson said. “But I’m 61, soon to be 62, and Mother Nature is soon to be undefeated, so I’ll probably have a need.”

Gibson said he’s also been plagued by multiple telephone calls and mailings from providers hoping to sell him insurance. The paperwork itself is daunting; Gibson joked he’d need a tax lawyer to sort it out.

“Quite frankly, from where I sit, I need more money in my paycheck and I think other Americans need jobs more than we needed health care (coverage). But that’s a political statement,” Gibson said. 

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This report contains information gathered with the help of our Public Insight Network. To learn more about the network and how you can become a source, please click here.