Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Can’t load Utah’s insurance exchange? Find prices here

In Salt Lake County, Humana underbids competition with the lowest prices by far.

First Published Oct 01 2013 09:01 am • Last Updated Feb 14 2014 11:35 pm

State regulators have unveiled the health insurance prices that Utahns will pay on the Affordable Care Act’s online insurance marketplace, or exchange.

Prices vary by county and competition is fierce, with 96 plans to choose from statewide, according to a 354-page report by the Utah Department of Insurance. In most counties, the gap in price between one plan and the next closest is small, the difference of a dollar or two per month.

At a glance

Find Utah exchange prices here

This 354-page report by the Utah Department of Insurance shows the rates for individuals and families for the health insurance plans being sold on the new exchange.

Counties see a range of prices

Here’s a snapshot of prices for “silver-level” plans posted Tuesday on healthcare.gov, the Affordable Care Act’s online health insurance marketplace. Statewide there are 96 plans from which to choose. Prices vary by county and depend on a purchaser’s age and family size.

Here are the ranges of monthly premiums before subsidies — available to many Utahns based on income — are applied.

Cache County

27-year-old » $203-$269

40-year-old » $216-$286

*Family plan » $780-$1,032

Salt Lake County

27-year-old » $162-$255

40-year-old » $173-$271

Family plan » $623-$978

Utah County

27-year-old » $209-$263

40-year-old » $223-$279

Family plan » $803-$1,008

Washington County

27-year-old » $219-$269

40-year-old » $233-$286

Family plan » $842-$1,032

Weber County

27-year-old » $189-$263

40-year-old » $201-$279

Family plan » $727-$1,008

* A family is defined as two parents age 40, and three or more children under 21.

Source: Utah Department of Insurance

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

But in the state’s most populous county, the spread is wider, and one insurance company, Kentucky-based Humana, is a clear outlier.

The for-profit insurer sweeps Salt Lake County with the lowest-priced plans in every category — bronze, silver, gold and platinum — and by a good margin.

"In Utah there’s a lot of pressure on companies because our individual market isn’t well-developed and is totally dominated by [nonprofits] SelectHealth and Regence BlueCross BlueShield," said Lincoln Nehring, a health analyst at Voices for Utah Children. "They had to compete on price to get their foot in the door."

Altius, another big national carrier, also came in with lower-than-average prices. But Humana underbid everyone, charging $19 to $74 less per month for its lowest-cost silver plan than the next company.

That may seem like chump change, but multiplied over a year it adds up, a calculus many of Utah’s 378,000 uninsured may be inclined to make.

Insurance experts, however, caution against shopping on price alone.

"Cheap is great. But if you’re going to use your insurance, monthly premiums are only part of the picture," said Tanji Northrup, Utah’s assistant insurance commissioner. "You have to look at your out-of-pockets costs, too."

All plans must cover certain "essential" health care services. But they are rated according to their actuarial value, or the percentage of health expenses they cover. The higher the metal level (gold versus bronze) the more you’ll pay in monthly premiums, but the lower your out-of-pocket costs will be.

story continues below
story continues below

Consumers should also pay attention to the size and strength of an insurer’s provider panel, said Northrup. "Ask if a plan covers your doctor or the hospital you like to go to."

Insurers are able to negotiate better prices by promising to funnel all their policy­holders to a small number of doctors and hospitals.

Northrup said Humana came in with narrow networks, but they aren’t alone. SelectHealth offers a range of policies, some covering 10 hospitals and others covering 43, she said.

The insurance department reviewed Humana’s rates to ensure they weren’t irresponsibly low.

Prices posted Tuesday on the exchange are guaranteed for 12 months. "An insurer can’t come back in two months and say, ‘We underpriced our plans, and we need to raise the rates,’ " said Northrup.

But don’t expect the rock-bottom deals to last.

"The carriers have gone in somewhat blind to offer these rates. A year from now it will probably look quite a bit different," predicts Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, an insurance broker.

Reinsurance, a federal pool of money used to protect insurers from heavy losses, is artificially keeping rates low on the exchange, said Dunnigan. But it phases out during the next three years, he said.

Consumers will have a chance to switch plans during the next open-enrollment period in October 2014, and Humana may not be able to sustain its market edge.

Arches Health Plan, the state’s only health co-op or member-governed insurer, is the price leader in Washington County.

"We were pleased to see we were competitive in most counties," said Arches CEO Linn Baker.

Next Page >

Save the date

On Oct. 9 at 7 p.m., The Salt Lake Tribune and KCPW will co-sponsor an Affordable Care Act town-hall meeting at Salt Lake City Main Library’s auditorium, 210 E. 400 South. Jennifer Napier-Pearce will moderate a discussion with a panel of experts, who also will answer questions.

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

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.