WASHINGTON -- Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Monday that some state reports blaming the Affordable Care Act for sharply higher health insurance premiums next year were "factually incorrect."
Ms. Sebelius didn't say which states she was referring to, but Republican-led states such as Ohio, Georgia and Indiana recently warned of large premium increases next year due to the national health care law.
"Erroneous information is being advanced as if these are the final rates available in the marketplace, and this is what consumers will be paying," Ms. Sebelius said Monday in a phone briefing. "That's just not accurate."
State insurance officials in Ohio originally said the average individual premium proposed for 2014 would be $420 a month, up 88 percent from the 2013 average price as reported by the Society of Actuaries. This week, they announced that the same coverage would cost about $332 a month.
A recent Obama administration analysis of prices in 11 states found that the lowest-cost "silver plan" -- which would cover 70 percent of medical costs -- will cost an average of 18 percent less than the Congressional Budget Office had projected.
The administration is trying to jump-start its education and public awareness efforts for the Affordable Care Act, despite a shortage of funds and persistent Republican resistance to the law, which was passed without GOP support.
Though congressional Republicans won't provide more money for outreach, and her department lost more than $15 billion in funding due to the budget cuts known as sequestration, Ms. Sebelius said the administration was meeting its commitments and would have insurance marketplaces ready for 2014 open enrollment, which begins Oct. 1.
Ms. Sebelius also said her department wasn't worrying about a "pretty dismal" effort by conservative groups to discourage young people from signing up for the health law's new insurance plans. Two months before enrollment begins for the online exchanges, the project is on schedule, the secretary said in her conference call, and the markets "are already increasing competition and giving consumers a better deal."
The administration sales pitch is running into warnings from Republicans that younger customers will see premiums soar. FreedomWorks, a group tied to the Tea Party movement, is campaigning to discourage people from signing up, with rallies to burn "Obamacare draft cards," evoking campus protests in the 1960s against the Vietnam War.
Ms. Sebelius said she has no idea how the opposition may affect her effort and isn't spending time trying to figure it out. The administration on Monday unveiled a feature on the department's website that will help consumers start filling out the application for coverage immediately. It also announced a call center devoted to helping small businesses use the markets.
Bloomberg News contributed.