Here's How Much People Are Actually Paying for Health Insurance

BusinessWeek

Plenty of data-hounds have been crunching numbers on health insurance premiums lately, based on the prices insurance companies quote on healthcare.gov and state marketplaces. Online brokerage EHealth has today published something new: a look at the prices people are actually paying to buy policies through its site.

Rather than just look at the rates insurers are offering, EHealth’s price index shows the average monthly premium of all the plans its customers purchased over the previous two weeks. Here’s a screenshot showing the index since October:

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These are premiums for individual policies across the U.S. People buying on EHealth can’t get federal subsidies, so customers are bearing the full cost of the premiums.

The curve shows that people who signed up early bought the most expensive policies, paying more than $350 per month in October and early November. They probably represent pent-up demand from people with preexisting conditions who—before Oct. 1—couldn’t get insurance or could buy policies only at sky-high prices. For people with preexisting conditions who know they’re going to need medical care, it makes sense to buy more generous policies with higher premiums.

The price of the average policy purchased on EHealth declined through the fall and leveled off at the start of January. It has consistently been a few dollars above $270 for a month.

Will the average price drop further as we get closer to the March 31 open enrollment deadline? That’s when young people and other healthy procrastinators are expected to buy coverage in the largest numbers. A healthier group that expects fewer medical costs in the year ahead might seek out plans that trade lower premiums for higher deductibles.

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