MIAMI -

Premiums in Florida for a mid-range health insurance plan under the Affordable Care Act will be $328 a month on average and will vary based on where a buyer lives, according to federal figures released Wednesday ahead of the launch of new health insurance markets next week.

Of the state's six largest metro areas, premium estimates excluding tax breaks were highest in Orlando, lowest in West Palm Beach and Tampa, and Jacksonville in between.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services officials gave cost estimates based on two scenarios: a 27-year-old and a family of four earning $50,000 a year broken down by region. The lowest premium for a mid-range health insurance plan for a 27-year-old would cost $207 monthly in Orlando but only $167 in the West Palm Beach area.

Jacksonville premiums fell in the middle, with the lowest monthly premium for mid-range coverage for a 27-year-old costing $186.
    
A family of four in Jacksonville with an income of $50,000 a year would pay $760 in premiums for the mid-range health insurance -- less than the $816 in Orlando but more than the $721 in Tampa.  (See table at bottom of article for details, comparisons.)

Tax credits, though, help equalize the premiums among Florida's metro areas.  
Individuals making less than roughly $46,000 a year and a four-person family with an income of less than $94,000 a year will qualify for subsidies to offset costs.

SPECIAL SECTION: Health care reform

"We are excited to see that rates in the Florida Marketplace are even lower than originally projected," said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "In the past, consumers were too often denied or priced-out of quality health insurance options, but thanks to the Affordable Care Act consumers will be able to choose from a number of new coverage options at a price that is affordable."

The liberal advocacy group Families USA estimates 1.7 million Floridians will be eligible for federal subsidies to help purchase insurance under the state exchange. But the amount will vary widely depending on income, location, the plan, family size, age, and even tobacco use.
    
Once tax credits are included, that same family of four would have a monthly premium of $282 in all Florida metro areas.
    
Compared to estimated premiums in other states, Florida's estimated premiums fall squarely in the middle, closely tracking the national average. Florida has one of the highest uninsured rates in the country with an estimated 3.5 million lacking insurance. The rate release comes as the White House swings into full campaign mode to promote the benefits of the Affordable Care Act to a skeptical public. Congressional Republicans, meanwhile, refuse to abandon their quest to derail "Obamacare" and are flirting with a government shutdown to force the issue.
    
Floridians wanting to purchase the lowest-cost plan would pay $257 a month on average.
    
Wednesday's release also showed the price range of premiums based on the type of plan a person gets.
    
A 27-year-old, not qualifying for tax credits, could pay as little as $132 a month for the lowest level plan covering only catastrophic events, but spend $229 a month on the highest-benefits plan, known as "gold." If too many young, healthy adults find those costs too high and instead opt to pay a $100 a year fine, it could throw the entire system off balance as insurers are banking on the enrollment of so-called "young invincibles" to offset the costs of caring for older, sicker adults.
    
In many counties, Floridians will be able to choose from six or seven carriers. But Bay, Franklin, Glades, Jefferson and Madison were among the 20 mostly rural counties where consumers will only have one option, according to state insurance officials.
      
Federal health officials were careful not to definitively say rates would be cheaper under the Affordable Care Act, stressing it's impossible to compare rates to those in the existing marketplace because plans under the new health law are required to cover more benefits. But Cohen said consumers will have high quality coverage at competitive rates, which will be even more appealing after the tax credits.
    
Florida Republicans are vehemently pushing back against implementing parts of the law. The Florida Department of Health recently ordered county health departments across the state to ban "navigators" from conducting outreach on their property.
    
Gov. Rick Scott, a vocal opponent of so-called "Obamacare," has also frequently expressed concern about the security of people's personal information, including their tax information and Social Security number, as they sign up for health coverage.
    
Under the new online exchange, consumers will be able to choose from bronze, silver, gold, platinum and catastrophic plans that offer a range of premiums, deductibles and co-pays depending on variables such as how many doctors they want included in their network.
    
Anyone making below the poverty line won't be eligible for subsidies through the online marketplace.  Federal health officials anticipate roughly 1 million Floridians will fall into a gap where they can't get health insurance because the state rejected Medicaid expansion.

Monthly
premiums

Number of
qualified
heath plans
27-year-old,
lowest
bronze rate
27-year-old,
lowest
silver rate
27-year-old,
lowest
gold rate
27-year-old,
lowest
catastrophic rate
Family of 4 earning $50,000,
second lowest silver rate
before tax credit
Family of 4 earning $50,000,
second lowest silver rate
after tax credit
Family of 4 earning $50,000, lowest
bronze rate
after tax credit
Florida average102$167$200$229$132$789$282$104
Jacksonville metro86$137$186$202$92$760$282$19
Orlando metro98$182$207$238$141$816$282$126
Miami metro137$163$202$239$109$799$282$72
Fort Lauderdale metro132$128$174$189$86$722$282$24
West Palm Beach metro132$147$167$193$109$797$282$18
National average53$163$203$240$129$774$282$95