Insurance rates may vary across the state

2013-09-20T23:22:00Z Insurance rates may vary across the stateBy MIKE WISER, Globe Gazette Des Moines Bureau Mason City Globe Gazette

DES MOINES — New plans on the state-run medical insurance exchange will range from less than $200 a month to more than $1,000 with folks in the southwest part of the state likely to have slightly higher premiums than their counterparts statewide.

The Iowa Insurance Division on Friday released sample rates for insurance policies which will be available for purchase when the state insurance exchange goes live on Oct. 1.

“The division released a snapshot of hypothetical rates to illustrate a range of rates because so many Iowans are curious,” said Becky Blum, Affordable Care Act administrator with the Iowa Insurance Division.

“Iowans will be able to view plans on the federally facilitated marketplace on October 1, 2013, in greater detail to see if a plan on the marketplace is right for them.”

The federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, sometimes called “Obamacare,” requires states to set up insurance marketplaces where uninsured people can purchase policies. Policies listed on the exchange have to meet certain coverage and pricing requirements to list on the exchange.

Policy prices vary both between and within states, based on actuarial tables. Premium costs — the monthly amount an individual and/or an employer pays to an insurance company — change depending where someone lives in Iowa.

The state is divided into seven regions. All of North Iowa is in Region 7.

Policies are also labeled platinum, gold, silver and bronze, the difference being how much in health care costs the provider covers.

For instance, a platinum program will likely have a higher monthly premium but lower out-of-pocket expenses for covered services. In a bronze plan, the reverse would be true — lower monthly costs but a higher co-pay.

“The insurance companies can set rates based on a few factors,” said Cynthia Cox, a researcher with the Kaiser Family Foundation. “One is age. Another is if you smoke. Then there’s where you live and family size — because a policy for a family of four is going to be more than for a single person. That’s it.”

She said the geographic differences involve several factors, including how much competition there is in the local insurance market and how much health care is already available. Underlying demographics can play a role too, Cox said.

Blum said existing agreements between providers and insurers may have an effect on pricing, too.

For the purposes of the sample plans released Friday, the Iowa Insurance Division listed examples of silver plans in all seven regions of the state for smokers and non-smokers at ages 21, 45 and 62.

For example, the average cost of a CoOportunity silver policy for a 21-year-old non-smoker who lives in Region 7’s Mason City would be $222.37 per month, according to the tables.

Average cost for a non-smoking 45-year-old in Mason City would be $321.10, and for a 62-year-old it would be $638.87.

Two companies, Coventry Health Care and CoOportunity Health, will offer plans statewide, while four other companies will offer in certain regions. That means consumers will have a choice of at least two policy options no matter where they live in the state.

The tables released Friday are posted at the insurance division website at www.iid.state.ia.us.

Copyright 2015 Mason City Globe Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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