The Washington Times - May 30, 2013, 04:19PM

More than 120 issuers have applied to offer plans to new enrollees in the insurance exchanges set up under President Obama’s new health care law, administration officials said this week, meaning consumers will have a wide range of choices as the program is implemented.

Open enrollment begins in October for the exchanges — state-based markets where those without insurance will be able to purchase policies, often with government subsidies. Coverage from plans on the exchanges will take effect in January.


But even before that, insurers are submitting their plans to states, and in at least one instance a major player in Maryland’s market asked for approval of a 25 percent premium increase. Other states, such as California, have seen more promising initial offerings.

Critics of the law, particularly Republican lawmakers, are eagerly pointing to signs that enrollees, particularly young and healthy ones, will face “sticker shock” through soaring premiums under Mr. Obama’s law.

Obama administration officials have contested that view, noting proposed rates must be vetted by state regulators and that critics fail to take into account tax credits that ease the financial burden on enrollees in the exchanges.

On Thursday, the White House released a memo that touts the law as a game-changer that will benefit of the consumer through increased competition among insurers.

They say the shift is sorely needed, because about 85 percent of the 7 million people projected to enroll in the exchanges live in the 46 states where, currently, only two insurers provide coverage to more than half of the state’s enrollees in the individual market.

“The marketplace is attracting new insurance choices and increasing competition for consumers, especially in states where it is really needed,” the memo said.Seventeen states, including the District of Columbia, will run their own exchanges, while the federal government will operate exchanges in 19 states which have declined to set up their own programs.

The remaining 15 states will partner with the federal government in running their exchanges.

The White House said one out of every four insurers who plan to offer coverage on the federally run exchange next year has newly entered the individual market, a sign that insurers are eager to offer plans under “Obamacare.”