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Cost of Health Coverage in U.S. May Depend on Where You Live

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 17 (HealthDay News) -- The cost of health care is a hot-button issue for most Americans, and new research on that topic shows that health insurance premiums for individuals vary widely around the country.

Although the average per-person monthly premium in the United States in 2010 was $215, researchers from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that these monthly insurance premiums could vary by up to $300 from state to state. The huge discrepancy in premiums was based on several factors, including an area's cost of living and demographics, they noted.

In performing the analysis, which the foundation has made available online, researchers found that some states, such as Vermont and Massachusetts, have the highest average premiums (more than $400 per month), because they've already introduced insurance market reforms allowing people with pre-existing conditions to purchase coverage.

Although national health reform legislation will prohibit insurers from charging more for pre-existing conditions beginning in 2014, right now some states allow insurers to exclude those with costly medical conditions, lowering average premiums, the study pointed out.

The researchers found several more reasons for the wide discrepancy in monthly premiums around the country, including variations in cost of living, health care costs, demographics, regulatory requirements, and plans' benefits, cost-sharing structure and ability to control costs.

Unlike employer-based coverage, the researchers noted that individual insurance plans typically have higher patient cost-sharing and greater benefit limitations. The Affordable Care Act, however, sets limits on patients' out-of-pocket expenses and establishes a minimum package of benefits that plans must offer, the authors of the analysis noted.

The Kaiser Family Foundation researchers concluded that their analysis should serve as a guideline for consumers as well as policymakers in determining the affordability of health insurance.

The Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the analysis of health issues.

More information has more about health insurance options.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: Kaiser Family Foundation, news release, Aug. 9, 2011

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