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California maintains robust health exchange competition

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A new analysis for The Associated Press shows that California is one of just nine states where at least three health plans will be available statewide for people who get coverage next year through the health insurance exchange.

The analysis of data compiled by Avalere Health found that Californians are avoiding the plight facing people in more than a third of U.S. counties, where exchange customers will have just one health plan option.

Customers in some areas of Southern California and the Central Valley will have seven plans from which to choose. Nearly all counties have four or more available plans, while Alameda and San Luis Obispo counties have three participating plans.

The analysis looked at county-by-county options available to people who buy coverage through the insurance exchanges created under President Barack Obama's health care overhaul. It's known in the Golden State as Covered California.

While competition remains more robust in California than elsewhere, the exchange is losing one insurer. UnitedHealthcare, which is selling plans to Covered California customers in 34 of California's 38 counties this year, is not participating next year.

Monthly premiums will rise next year by an average of 13 percent — a significantly higher increase than the 4 percent hikes in each of the last two years.

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