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Plenty of Americans take a dim view of Obamacare, even though the Affordable Care Act doesn't fully kick in until next year. It will be expensive. It will be a bureaucratic nightmare. It will complicate a health care system already in disarray.

All of those things could be true, in some states more than others. But in one key state, the costs are coming in surprisingly low.

California has announced the premiums for its residents under what it calls Covered California, a health benefit exchange that is developing the state's insurance marketplace. Covered California has picked 13 health insurance plans to start with next year and has put together a booklet (.pdf form) summarizing them.

There are four categories of coverage -- which the state has named bronze, silver, gold and platinum -- and the rates for each vary by region and residents' ages. For silver, the second-cheapest plan, the average monthly premium ranges from $304 to $335. The booklet has more detailed information.

These costs aren't for Californians who already get health insurance from their employers or Medicare or Medicaid. Rather, they would be for residents who don't have insurance or who buy it on their own.

And while they still must get final approval, many observers who have looked over them say they aren't bad. They are certainly less than what people would pay today for the same level of coverage, Jonathan Cohn writes at the New Republic. Someone making $29,000 a year would pay about $2,400 a year in premiums, Cohn writes. Someone making $17,000 a year would pay about $700 a year.

A huge unanswered question here is what happens to the premiums in subsequent years. Companies are most likely low-balling prices to grab market share. What happens in the future?

Another question is what will happen in other states that weren't so willing to embrace Obamacare. How will their premiums stack up? Some states are rushing to meet early deadlines set by the law and "are barely going to make it," the former director of the Massachusetts exchange told Businessweek.

There will be plenty of horror stories ahead. But for now, the Obama administration can look at California's numbers as one bright spot in a deluge of negativity about the law. A year from now, we'll have a much clearer sense of costs and what may or may not be working.

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