The federal web site that allows Americans to buy health insurance has released the different cost options in the 36 states covered by the troubled federal exchange at healthcare.gov, putting forth a blizzard of information on the cost of health insurance plans under the Obama health law.
In all, there are 78,437 different options listed, covering the various Gold, Silver, Bronze, Platinum and Catastrophic plans for every county in the states dealt with by the federal exchange.
“Data.HealthCare.gov” is the name of the site, which offers what is described as the “QHP Individual Medical Landscape” information; it includes price data on how much policies cost from different health insurers for individuals, families and more.
There is also a more direct way to access the data at https://www.healthcare.gov/health-plan-information/
But while looking at the prices, there was just this gnawing feeling of – are these the real prices? A story on CBS News today raised some questions, which found “serious pricing problems.”
“The new “Shop and Browse” feature on the Web site underestimates the cost of insurance for millions of Americans,” CBS reported.
The healthcare.gov description said this: “The table below lists all health plans available in states where the federal government is operating the Marketplace. This tool allows you to survey plans and prices outside the Marketplace application.”
And then the answer was clear – these are basic framework prices which can change based on your personal situation:
“These examples are offered for comparison purposes only,” it said on healthcare.gov. “When an individual provides household and income information on the Marketplace application, the applicant’s specific age, household makeup, and smoking status will be used to determine premium costs.”
The data shows that for people who live in the same county, it appears they could pay different rates for the same insurance coverage, simply because it is offered by different insurance companies and in different insurance venues.
+ In Cobb County, Georgia, the “Premium Adult” cost for a Bronze plan is $173.89 per month through the Humana Insurance Company, but the same Bronze plan is $205.94 per month through Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield; the Bronze plan from Kaiser Foundation Health plans is $208.00 per month.
Why the cost difference? Some are for HMO plans, others for Point-of-Service (POS) plans.
+ In Orange County, Florida, the same differences are apparent from this data, some within the same company. For example, the Silver plan for a “Premium Adult” lists costs of $311.61, $321.27, $290.10 and $299.09 – all from Florida Blue Cross Blue Shield.
But if you want to buy the same coverage from Aetna, the Silver Plans in Orange County, Florida are listed at $270.00 and $292.00 per month.
+ In Montgomery County, Ohio, you find the same range of prices, whether you are buying from Anthem Blue Cross, Humana Health, Molina Marketplace, Care Source, HealthSpan or Med Mutual. The price for a “Gold” plan is $445.11 per month from Molina, while it is listed at $263.46 per month from CareSource; both are HMO’s.
+ In Tulsa County, Oklahoma, the prices vary depending on whether you want to buy from Aetna, Coventry Health Care of Kansas, GlobalHealth, Blue Cross Blue Shield pr CommunityCare, with a “Bronze” plan costing anywhere from $141.96 per month from CommunityCare to $189 for GlobalHealth and $239 per month from Aetna.
You can download the price information above and do the comparisons yourself – but remember – evidently these are not the final prices.
One thing that I did note while going through all this data – there was no listing of any deductible for these plans.