By Jordan Rau
In health insurance prices, as in the weather, Alaska and the Sun Belt are extremes. This year Alaska is the most expensive health insurance market for people who do not get coverage through their employers, while Phoenix, Albuquerque, N.M., and Tucson, Ariz., are among the very cheapest.
Map courtesy of Eric Gaba – via Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons license
In this second year of the insurance marketplaces created by the federal health law, the most expensive premiums are in rural spots around the nation: Wyoming, rural Nevada, patches of inland California and the southernmost county in Mississippi, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation, which has compiled premium prices from around the country. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)
Alaska health premiums, at $488 per month the highest in the nation, are triple those in Phoenix ($166).
The most and least expensive regions are determined by the monthly premium for the least expensive “silver” level plan, which is the type most consumers buy and covers on average 70 percent of medical expenses. Premiums in the priciest areas are triple those in the least expensive areas.
Along with the three southwestern cities, the places with the lowest premiums include Louisville, Ky., Pittsburgh and western Pennsylvania, Knoxville and Memphis, Tenn., and Minneapolis-St. Paul and many of its suburbs, the analysis found.
Starting this month, the cheapest silver plan for a 40-year-old in Alaska costs $488 a month. (Not everyone will have to pay that much because the health law subsidizes premiums for low-and moderate-income people.) A 40-year-old Phoenix resident could pay as little as $166 for the same level plan.
Highest and Lowest Premiums
Here are the 10 most and least expensive regions in the country – with the counties listed in parenthesis – based on premium prices for the lowest-cost silver plan. Regions are counties that share the same price for the same lowest-cost-plan and are either geographically contiguous or are part of the same rating area created by the state.
Premiums are listed for 40-year-olds; and for most states the difference in prices stays the same for people of any age. Vermont and two upstate New York areas— Ithaca and Plattsburgh—also are among the 10 most expensive places, although those states do not let insurers adjust premiums based on the consumer’s age, making comparisons inexact.
Older residents in those states will end up getting better deals than in most places, while younger ones tend to pay more.
10 Highest Premiums
$488 Alaska (entire state)
$459 Ithaca, NY (Tompkins)
$456 Bay St. Louis, Mississippi (Hancock)
$446 Plattsburgh, NY (Clinton)
$440 Rural Wyoming (Albany, Big Horn, Campbell, Carbon, Converse, Crook, Fremont, Goshen, Hot Springs, Johnson, Lincoln, Niobrara, Park, Platte, Sheridan, Sublette, Sweetwater, Teton, Uinta, Washakie, and Weston)
$428 Vermont (entire state)
$418 Rural Nevada (Churchill, Elko, Eureka, Humboldt, Lander, Mineral, Pershing, and White Pine)
$412 Casper, Wyoming (Natrona)
$410 Inland California (Imperial, Inyo, and Mono)
$401 Cheyenne, Wyoming (Laramie)
10 Lowest Premiums
$166 Phoenix, Ariz. (Maricopa)
$167 Albuquerque, N.M. (Bernalillo, Sandoval, Torrance, and Valencia)
$167 Louisville, Ky. (Bullitt, Jefferson, Oldham, and Shelby)
$170 Tucson, Ariz. (Pima and Santa Cruz)
$170 Pittsburgh, Pa. (Allegheny and Erie)
$179 Western Pennsylvania (Beaver, Butler, Washington, Westmoreland, Armstrong, Crawford, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Lawrence, McKean, Mercer, and Warren)
$181 Knoxville and Eastern Tennessee (Anderson, Blount, Campbell, Claiborne, Cocke, Grainger, Hamblen, Jefferson, Knox, Loudon, Monroe, Morgan, Roane, Scott, Sevier, and Union)
$181 Minneapolis-St. Paul (Anoka, Benton, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott, Sherburne, Stearns, Washington, and Wright)
$184 Memphis and suburbs (Fayette, Haywood, Lauderdale, Shelby, and Tipton)
$189 North of Minneapolis (Chisago and Isanti)
That three-fold spread is similar to the gap between last year’s most expensive area — in the Colorado mountain resort region, where 40-year-olds paid $483—and the least expensive, the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, where they paid $154. Continue reading