Richer health benefits cost 47 percent more

Benefits Pro reports:

“Average monthly premiums for individual health insurance plans are 47 percent higher than average when they cover a comprehensive list of eight health benefits, but they also yield lower deductibles, a new industry report reveals.

The report by eHealth, the parent company of eHealthInsurance, is the latest to predict higher premiums for health coverage coming next year when the bulk of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act kicks in.

The report examined the cost of about 30,000 individual plans that included eight health benefits and were purchased across 32 states through eHealthInsurance. The benefits include laboratory and X-Ray; emergency services; prescription drugs; chiropractic; maternity; OB/GYN; periodic exams; and well baby care. Similarly, the PPACA created a list of 10 essential health benefits that all major medical health insurance plans must cover at an actuarial value of 60 percent or more in order to fulfill the federal mandate for health coverage, beginning in January 2014.

 “These data provide valuable insight into the cost of health insurance plans as consumers prepare to enroll in the more comprehensive health plans that will become available with the Affordable Care Act,” says Robert Hurley, eHealth senior vice president of carrier relations.

Hurley noted the report doesn’t provide an “apples to apples comparison of plans that cover the essential health benefits established in the PPACA,” but it does indicate potential problems with affordability with new benefits standards.

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, a 27 percent decrease.

The average premium for a family was $605, compared to $412. The average family deductible will decrease 16 percent when a plan covered all of the benefits tracked in eHealth’s Cost and Benefits report ($3,422 vs. $4,079).