Vermont became the first state on Monday to publish the rates it would charge people who don't currently have health insurance to get coverage - a key step toward establishing the health exchanges that are central to the federal health care law known as Obamacare.
Under the proposed rates, the amount that individuals would pay every month would vary from $360 for the most basic package to more than $600 for the most comprehensive.
Rates for family and group plans would be higher, and people at certain income levels would get federal subsidies to help pay for their insurance.
Here's one example: a family of four with an annual income of $32,000 would pay $45 a month. That compares with a single person making $40,000, who'd pay $317 a month.
Health officials said those rates are comparable to current commercial rates, and Governor Peter Shumlin said the proposed rates show how Vermont will make health care more affordable as it slowly moves toward adopting the nation's first single-payer system.
When I meet with my fellow 49 governors behind closed doors at the National Governors Association, there isn't a governor sitting around the table who doesn't agree that it isn't the governors - the states as laboratories for change -that actually accomplish real cost containment, Shumlin said. While the federal bill does many good things, it doesn't do enough to contain costs.
The Shumlin administration said Vermont is on track for consumers to shop for, compare and purchase plans starting October 1st for coverage beginning next year.
We're realistic about the work that needs to be done between now and then, said Mark Larson, the commissioner of the Department of Health Access, who argues that being the first out of the gate with proposed insurance rates has its advantages.
People will have more information earlier and they'll have plenty of time to make decisions that are good for them, Larson said.
The Green Mountain Care Board, a health care panel charged with developing policies that might slow the rising cost of health care, is inviting the public to comment on the new rates during meetings each Thursday in Montpelier. The Board is also holding a special meeting in Bennington on Monday, April 8, at 1p.m.
This story has been updated to correct the date of the Bennington meeting.