The legal brawl over the individual mandate underscores the ideological divide over how best to tackle those problems, which have proven persistent and costly. In one recent analysis of how coverage limits may affect the healthcare marketplace (PDF), researchers with the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation suggested limited access to health plans may contribute to widely different premiums for consumers in the individual market.
Insurers that exclude patients with prior or chronic illness could be one reason premiums for consumers who buy their own insurance differ from state to state by hundreds of dollars per month, said authors of the Kaiser Family Foundation paper released this month. Click here for a map and chart showing premium variations.
States where insurers enroll consumers most likely to require medical care—those with prior conditions—could have higher premiums, according to the report. Those states include Massachusetts where the average individual market premiums were $437. The average U.S. consumer who shopped for health insurance in 2010 paid $215 per month in premiums, according to the report. Meanwhile, Alabama's average premium in the individual market last year was $136.
Insurance regulation under the health reform law “should narrow the variation in how much people pay for insurance in different parts of the country,” the report's authors said. Consumers cannot be excluded from health plans based on medical history or face surcharges for prior illness under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the authors said in the report.
Researchers used premium information released by Mark Farrah Associates, a healthcare research company, from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and one major California insurer, WellPoint. Premium information was not available for seven states: Alaska, Kansas, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas.
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