Individual Health Insurance Policies Offered in State Have ‘Wide Variation’ in Price, Benefits, Study Finds
Individual health insurance policies offered in California have a "wide variation" in prices and benefits, according to a new study released last week by the California HealthCare Foundation. The study examined individual health insurance polices offered by Blue Cross of California, Blue Shield of California, Kaiser Permanente and PacifiCare of California in San Diego, Los Angeles, Fresno, San Francisco, Sacramento and Shasta counties. According to the study, the four companies offered as many as 31 different individual health insurance policies, and the cost of the most expensive policy was seven to 11 times higher than the price of the least expensive policy in some cases. The study also found that in each of the six counties, the average cost difference between the highest-priced and lowest-priced comprehensive HMO policies was 71%, and the average cost difference between the highest-priced and lowest-priced low-benefit policies -- a PPO policy with a $1,500 annual deductible -- was 17%. The study recommended that consumers consider the benefits, the size of the provider network and the financial risk of set monthly premiums and out-of-pocket expenses when they consider the purchase of an individual health insurance policy. In addition, the study recommended that lawmakers require health insurers to offer some "standardized benefit packages" to allow consumers to make "apple-to-apple comparisons" between individual health insurance policies (CHCF release, 11/7). The study is available online. Note: You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the study.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.