Health Care

September 25, 2013

Data shows Wichita area’s health insurance rates will be lowest in state in online marketplace

Wichita-area residents will have the lowest rates in the state on plans available from the new online health insurance marketplace, according to data released by the federal government.

Wichita-area residents will have the lowest rates in the state on plans available from the new online health insurance marketplace, according to data released by the federal government.

But consumers still are not able go online – or elsewhere – to get actual pricing and coverage information about the plans available to them.

That information at won’t be made available until Tuesday, when enrollment is scheduled to begin under the federal Affordable Care Act.

Federal officials announced Wednesday that an average of 37 health plans will be available in Kansas as part of the new online health insurance marketplace that begins Tuesday. Starting in 2014, insurance companies can set an individual’s rate based on age, family size, tobacco use and location.

Kansas has been divided into seven regions: Kansas City area, Northeast, Northcentral, Northwest, Southwest, Southcentral and Southeast.

Insurance companies make their own determinations on how different regions compare. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas, one of the companies offering plans on the new marketplace, says that the cost of care for different regions is a significant factor.

Other factors include environmental, demographic and socioeconomic issues.

Consumers will have the option of buying bronze, silver, gold or platinum plans, which describe how much cost-sharing will be included in the plan design. There will also be catastrophic plans that have a lower cost for people younger than 30 or with low incomes.

For 55-year-olds, the lowest-cost bronze plan premium is about $257 per month for someone in the Wichita area but $340 for someone in southwest Kansas, and the minimum gold plan premium is $380 in the Southcentral region, compared to $501 in the Southwest region.

The trend is the same for other ages. A 22-year-old in Wichita could pay $170 for the minimum gold plan, while a person of the same age in southwest Kansas would pay about $224.

The Kansas City area – which includes Leavenworth, Wyandotte, Johnson and Miami counties – and the rest of northeast Kansas are also cheaper than the rural regions of the state. The Kansas City area has the greatest number of plans available in the state, especially in the silver and gold categories.

Four companies have signed up to offer plans through the marketplace in Kansas: Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas, Blue Cross of Kansas City, Coventry Life and Health, and Coventry Health Care of Kansas. Coventry is offering both a PPO and an HMO product, which is the reason for the two different companies.

According to a news release, the average premium in Kansas for the lowest-cost silver plan will be $260 and the lowest-cost bronze plan will be $197.

The release gives a couple of examples of rates but no detailed information on what the plans include. One example is a 27-year-old living in Kansas who makes $25,000 per year; he would pay $107 per month for the lowest-cost bronze plan and $145 per month for the silver plan, taking into account tax credits.

Another example is for a family of four in Kansas with an income of $50,000 per year; the lowest bronze plan would cost $144 per month.

Without actual plans and prices online, however, consumers get only a rough idea about what their costs might be and what the plans will cover.

Enrollment will be open through March 2014. Those who do not have health insurance after Jan. 1 will face a tax penalty of about $95 or 1 percent of their income, whichever is greater.

Those who live in states that did not expand Medicaid and would have been eligible for Medicaid had it been expanded will not have to pay the penalties.

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