Kaiser Health News released its list of the top ten most expensive regions for buying health insurance on Monday, and Colorado’s mountain resort region earned the dubious distinction of coming in at Number One.
While the Affordable Care Act (ACA) prohibits insurers from charging higher prices based on preexisting health conditions or gender, it does allow them to adjust their prices based on age, tobacco use and geography. Clearly, geography matters.
The counties of Eagle (home of Vail), Pitkin (home of Aspen) and Garfield topped the list with monthly premiums of $483 for the cheapest “silver” plan that a 40-year-old non-smoker can buy through the marketplace. Average silver premiums in neighboring Summit County (Breckenridge) are $462, the next highest in Colorado.
These Colorado resort area monthly premiums are about $100 higher than in Alaska, the tenth most expensive region on the list.
Silver plans are mid-tier, cheaper than “gold” but more expensive than “bronze,” and are being selected most often by Colorado marketplace consumers.
How do these prices compare to others across the state? Here’s a look at the cheapest prices for a single, 40-year- old, non-smoker buying a silver policy through Connect for Health Colorado, the state’s insurance marketplace, before any potential tax credit:
- Denver County: $245
- Otero County: $304
- Yuma County: $358
- Montezuma County: $349
- Larimer County: $233
- Alamosa County: $304
While these differences are not new, they have become transparent because of the ACA. Marguerite Salazar, Colorado’s Director of Insurance, announced this week that she will launch a commission to study health care cost drivers and inconsistencies of premium prices across the state.
Meanwhile, data from the 2013 Colorado Health Access Survey (CHAS) reveal a disconnect between the amount that uninsured Coloradans say they are willing to pay for health insurance, and what it actually costs in the marketplace.
Connect for Health Colorado reports that the average monthly insurance premium in Colorado is $376. Even with a tax credit available to those below 400 percent – $248 on average – the typical monthly premium costs $128. This price is higher than about 62 percent of uninsured Coloradans are willing to pay, according to the CHAS.