Metal plans cost more off the exchange


For the four major insurance companies selling plans off of the exchanges, metals plans sold by Minneapolis-based UnitedHealthcare, Hartford, Connecticut-based Aetna, Bloomfield, Connecticut-based Cigna and New York City-based Assurant cost 40 percent more than the least expensive plans offered on the exchanges, according to a new study from HealthPocket.

The study focused on 39 states where the four insurers had a market presence, and compared the lowest-cost bronze, silver and gold off-exchange plans to the least expensive bronze, silver and gold on-exchange plans.

Bronze Plans:

The exchanges had the cheapest plan in 36 out of 39 cities. Assurant's least expensive bronze plan was 41 percent more expensive than an on-exchange plan. UnitedHealth's plan was 58 percent more expensive, while Aetna and Cigna's cost 38 percent and 42 percent more, respectively.

Silver Plans:

The exchanges had the cheapest silver plan in 35 out of 39 cities. All silver plans offered by UnitedHealth and Cigna were more expensive than those on the exchanges--50 percent and 32 percent higher, respectively. Aetna's least expensive silver plan was 39 percent more expensive than an on-exchange plan, while Assurant's plan was 35 percent more expensive than the cheapest on-exchange plan.

Gold Plans:

For gold plans, the exchanges had the cheapest plans in 35 out of 39 cities. While Aetna and Cigna only offered bronze and silver plans in the noted cities, UnitedHealth offered gold plans in 10 cities and Assurant offered gold plans in all 39 cities. The cheapest UnitedHealth plan was 41 percent more expensive than the cheapest on-exchange plan, while Assurant's cost 39 percent more.

These findings suggest that if the four insurers entered new exchange markets in 2015, they would need to drastically lower their premiums to compete with the cheapest on-exchange plans, notes the study.

What's more, it's possible on-exchange insurers chose to have lower premiums as a way to make their plans appear more competitive, while off-exchange insurers may have invested more money than on-exchange plans for costs relating to marketing, causing higher premiums, according to the report.

For more:
- here's the HealthPocket study

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