Richer health benefits cost 47% more, industry report warns

A new report from eHealthInsurance indicates premiums for medical coverage could rise sharply next year for some consumers.
(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)
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Premiums for comprehensive health insurance are 47% higher than other policies without all of those benefits, a new industry study shows, but those higher rates also yield lower deductibles.

The report issued Tuesday by eHealth Inc., the company behind online shopping website eHealthInsurance. adds to a steady drumbeat of predictions about “rate shock” when the federal healthcare law kicks in next year.

Even some supporters of the Affordable Care Act have expressed concern that the federal requirement for richer benefits and new consumer protections will drive up premiums substantially. Federal premium subsidies will be available to families earning up to about $93,000 to help lessen the financial bite.


“I think consumers can expect new health plans next year are going to be somewhere between 40% to 60% more expensive,” said Bob Hurley, eHealth’s senior vice president of carrier relations. “I think there is a fair amount of concern that the health plan requirements are too rich.”

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This latest report examined the cost of about 30,000 individual plans that included eight health benefits and were purchased across 32 states through eHealthInsurance. The federal law requires coverage for a similar group of 10 “essential health benefits,” such as maternity care, mental health services and prescription drugs.

Hurley noted eHealth’s report isn’t an “apples to apples comparison,” but it does indicate potential problems with affordability next year. In January, most Americans will be required to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty.

The eHealth report said its average premium for an individual policy covering the eight benefits was $279 a month compared to $190 a month without that full coverage. The annual deductible on the more comprehensive policy was $2,257 versus $3,079 on the other policies.

Taking into account premiums and deductibles, the potential out-of-pocket cost was 5% higher for the policy with more benefits. Many experts say consumers should look beyond just the monthly premium when shopping for the best health plan.



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