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Mormon populations, like Utah, get the cheapest Obamacare

If you’re looking for cheap healthcare, look no further than Utah.

The American Communities Project crunched the numbers last month and discovered that counties they classify as "LDS enclaves" have the cheapest Affordable Care Act plans. The study looked at "silver plans" for 21-year-olds, finding that the average lowest premium was $174. Regions classified as LDS enclaves include all of Utah as well as significant portions of neighboring states.

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By contrast, the counties with the highest costs were those classified as "Native American lands" and the "African American south." The study also notes that the premium costs are not tied to income:

"Instead the differences above are a side effect of having the new healthcare law built on top of the old private insurance system that was already in place. The differences aren’t due to random chance. Providers knew the communities they served, knew their competition and priced plans accordingly."

The result is that urban areas — where incomes are also higher — tend to have lower premium costs, while rural communities tend to pay more.

So why does Utah get the cheapest insurance?

According to the authors, it’s due to "clean living." The LDS enclaves have lower rates of smoking and drinking, driving down healthcare costs. In other areas, such as counties classified as "big cities," competition tends to drive down costs.

— Jim Dalrymple II

Twitter: @jimmycdii

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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