The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

October 7, 2013

Go west for best deal on Illinois insurance market

CARLA K. JOHNSON
AP Medical Writer

---- — CHICAGO (AP) — People looking for the best deals on the new Illinois health insurance marketplace should consider moving to cities along the northwestern state border, if they don’t live there already.

Illinois counties in the Quad Cities area have the lowest prices for mid-level plans expected to be the most popular under President Barack Obama’s new health initiative. In general, the highest prices are in the northern Illinois counties of Lake, McHenry, Kane and DuPage. That’s according to price information released by the federal government and analyzed by The Associated Press.

Over the course of a year, the regional differences in price could add up to the cost of a microwave oven or a plane ticket.

For example, the lowest cost silver plan for a 50-year-old in Mercer County is $268 a month. For a 50-year-old in Kane County the lowest cost silver plan is $293 a month. Over one year of payments, that difference in monthly premiums adds up to the Kane County 50-year-old paying $300 more than the Mercer County 50-year-old.

All the policies in the new marketplace cover a broad range of medical services, prescription drugs, emergency care, hospitalization, mental health care and lab services.

Comparing the prices of these comprehensive plans to what was previously available is difficult, like comparing apples and oranges. What’s clear is that Illinois residents will have a broad array of prices and plans to choose from.

Federal tax subsidies will bring down the cost for many people. The prices in this article reflect costs before tax subsidies.

“There are really good options for folks throughout the state,” said Illinois Department of Insurance Director Andrew Boron. “We’re seeing some really robust choices.”

An initial look at the prices shows Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, the largest Illinois provider based on number of customers on the individual market, offering the lowest monthly rates for bronze and silver plans in many parts of the state.

All insurers in the market are offering plans with a range of pricing.

“We’re trying to offer plans that meet consumer need and expand access to cost-effective health care,” said Kurt Kossen, vice president of retail markets for Health Care Service Corporation.